The Biggest Changes ‘Doctor Sleep’ Makes from Stephen King’s Novel!
Doctor Sleep follows Dan Torrance as an adult, battling alcoholism and understandably scarred by his experiences as a kid in the Overlook Hotel. He has found a new life in a little town working as a orderly in a hospice. He uses his gift to ease the elderly patients as they die, and he is quickly given the moniker of Doctor Sleep. When he is contact by a little girl with a powerful shine, he realises she is being hunted by an ancient group of beings, desperate to feed on the girl’s powers. Stephen King’s sequel novel to The Shining came out in 2013, and it was quickly snatched up as film property. In 2019, the movie adaption hit screens with a huge twist, this was a sequel to both the Novel and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. With the movie being a hybrid of two different mediums, there were of course many changes made to fit King’s Novel into a single coherent story. So, if you were wondering what the differences where, you have come to the right place, as I’d like to take you through a some of the biggest changes made. Shine on my friends as we look at The Biggest Changes ‘Doctor Sleep’ Makes from Stephen King’s Novel!
Dick Hallorann and Black Grampa
Stephen King’s novel start off with a bang, or after a bang should we say, as we meet up with Wendy and Danny Torrance shortly after the Overlook Hotel explodes, burning the building to ashes and taking Husband and Father, Jack Torrance, with it. Whilst the hotel is nothing more the rubble, the spirits are still very much around, as Danny discovers when the 217 ghost, Mrs. Massey, shows up for an unexpected bathroom visit. The spirits are still after Danny special Shine, and he warns his mother about something in the bathroom. Wendy, probably annoyed that she now must piss in the sink, calls Dick Hallorann.
First introduced in The Shining, in which he worked as a chef at the Overlook Hotel, Hallorann has a gift like Danny which he calls the Shining. The novel gives Halloran a much more substantial backstory where we learn of how he dealt with “bad” Shines. Dick talks about his great-uncle, who he calls Black Grandpa, and how, as a child, he was mentally, physically and sexually abused by the monstrous man. When Black Grandpa died, he kept coming back to haunt the young boy. His Grandmother taught him how to “lock” bad shines away in a mental lock box, and it’s this trick that Hallorann teaches Danny.
“Someday, Danny, it will be your turn to be the teacher. The pupil will come.”
The film takes a very different path, continuing from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film. Here the hotel is still standing, and Dick is dead, killed by Jack. Whilst the ghost of Mrs. Massey shows up much like in the book, Wendy has no one to turn to for help. Dick shows up as spirits and it’s this friendly ghost that teaches Danny how to deal with the Overlooks spectres. Halloran shows up again in the film as Danny conscience and once more years later. Dick appears in an empty room of the hospice Danny now works in. He Tells Danny that he has a “dept” to pay and must help the little girl that is calling him.
The books approach is a little less subtle. Danny attempts to locate Hallorann but discovers that had passed away in 1999. However, Dick still manages to communicate with Danny briefly possessing the body of Eleanor Ouellette, a woman in the hospice. In both the book and film, the message is the same, and Danny knows that he must help Abra Stone.
Abra Stone, a baby girl born in 2001, begins to manifest psychic powers of her own when she seemingly predicts the 9/11 attacks. Growing up, she inadvertently establishes a telepathic bond with Danny. As her powers grow, she starts to gain more control. One night, she psychically witnesses the horrendous torture and murder of a boy at the hand of vampiric group who call themselves The True Knot. She has a great-grandmother with whom she is very close and is extraordinarily strong willed. It’s made very clear that she has an amazing powerful shine, even more so than Dan did when he was a young boy. However it is not ghosts that haunt the young child, but a group of vampiric creatures that call themselves the True Knot. They become aware of her when she accidentally jumps into the mind of another child with keen powers, Bradley Trevor, as the group are feeding on him. This accidentally slip up causes the group to sense Abra’s presence.
In the film, we witness Abra’s abilities not through a tragic event but at a birthday party, where she makes spoons levitate, much to her parent’s dismay. Film Abra also establishes a link with Danny and witness the murder of the “Baseball Boy”, but her link with Rose the Hat Happens much earlier on, where Rose gets a “hint” of Abra’s powers. It’s only after Bradley Trevor death, that Rose decided to find the child with powerful “steam!”
Concetta and Family Ties
In the book, Danny (now going as just Dan) visits Abra’s great-grandmother Concetta, who is dying of cancer. He telepathically learns from her that his father, Jack Torrance, had an affair with his teaching assistant, Sandy Reynolds and as a result has a half-sister named Lucy. Lucy’s daughter is Abra, meaning that their “gift” is born of the same family genetics. Danny is Abra’s uncle. Before she passes away, Concetta gives Danny a “gift”, her diseased steam, which Danny takes inside himself. This leave shim pretty sure that he is now dying of Concetta’s cancer.
In the film, there is no connection to Dan and Abra other than their shared gift. Abra’s great-grandmother Concetta is mentioned, even as far as mentioning that she is ill, but she never appears in the film, nor gives Danny her “gift”. This plot point is completely missing from the film.
Mumps and Murder
The True Knot are a group of vampiric quasi-immortals, who all have some form of “Shine”. They are a nomadic tribe who wander across the United States and feed from “steam,” a psychic essence produced from people who suffer and die, specifically people who have the shining. Through feeding on steam, they have discovered the secret to eternal life, and they constantly yearn for this special life force, especially that of young children, which is stronger. The knot are incredibly rich and very well organised , using trackers and police radios to keep ahead of the game. Although they have vast wealth, they keep to shadows and never stay in one place too long.
“They eat screams and drink pain!”
In the book Bradley Trevor, later known as the “baseball boy”, is brutally tortured and murder at the hands of the True Knot, as the feast on his steam. However, the group quickly grow to regret their actions, when a deadly rash of measles spreads through their ranks. As many of the Knot are centuries old, they never obtained the antibodies to handle modern disease such as measles. Grandpa Flick, already weak from hunger, succumbs to the virus and dies, in a process the Knot call “cycling”, where their physical form shifts painfully in and out of existence, before disappearing completely. Rose the Hat convinces them that Abra Stones strong shine will cure them of their infliction.
In the Film, the True Knot have a condensed version of the books story. Whilst they murder the baseball boy, they do not catch measles. Grandpa Flick appears frail and is seen coughing throughout, and so the film explains his death as being a result of hunger and old age. The Knots plan to capture Abra is purely on the basis that the young girl has a powerful shine that could feed them for a very long time. There is no mention of wealth and they appear more disorganised than their book counterparts.
One of the starkest difference between the book and film is actually the result of how Kubrick changed the ending of The Shining.
The Shining novel goes out of its way to make one thing very clear, that Jack Torrance had become possessed by the hotel itself, or least the many spirits inside the hotel. Jack is loving husband and a doting father; he just has problem with the bottle. The hotel conjures up booze so that it can slip into Jack. When Danny confronts the mallet wielding thing smashing its way down the hotels corridors, Jack appears shortly to tell his son how much he loves him, before smashing itself in the face with its own weapon. The bloody thing that is left towering over Danny is nothing more than shell controlled by the Overlook.
“Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you.”
When Danny tells the thing that his dad had forgotten to dump the faulty boiler, the puppet turns tale and madly dashed down into the basement to stop the pending explosion. But It is too late and the hotel blows sky high. What is not taken out by the explosion burns to ashes in the inferno.
Kubrick’s film left the Overlook hotel standing. So, in Doctor Sleep, it is explained that the hotel has since been abandoned. Dan revisits the Overlook in the films third act, walking its halls and visiting various rooms including The Gold Room and boiler. Whilst in the boiler we see Dan turning on the hotels electrics and heating, but it’s later revealed that he has rigged it to blow, mirroring Kings original novel. The film tempts Dan with alcohol, but he refuses, showing a strength his father never had. The hotel literally forces its way inside of Dan to take control of him. The film then homages King with a sequence right out of The Shining, with a now possessed Dan hunting Abra through the Hotels corridors. Abra’s lines are taken almost entirely from Dan’s dialogue with Jack, from King’s novel.
The True Knots Trap
The film follows the True Knot as they leave Rose at the trailer park and head out to capture Abra. They believe that they have the upper hand on the little girl but are unaware that Dan has helped Abra set up a trap. She uses a projection technique to make the Knot believe she is elsewhere, sending her mind along with Dan and Billy Freeman, whilst her body remains home with her father Dave. The Knot fall for the trap and Dan and Billy kill the gang in a shootout, but not before Snakebite Andi telepathically manipulates Billy into killing himself.
However, whilst the True Knot are busy in a firefight, Crow Daddy does get the jump on Abra, killing her father and kidnapping the young girl. Danny uses projection to take control of Abra and crash the car, killing Crow Daddy.
The Shootout also happens in the book, but only with a handful of the True Knot. Abra creates a fake presence that travels with Dan to lure in the Knot, but she stays with Billy Freeman. Dave Stone join Dan and Doctor John Doltan as they tackle the group. The shot out leaves the small Knot group dead or dying, but Dan quickly realises that Crow Daddy is not here. Whilst Crow sees the fake image of Abra, he witnesses a brief moment where he gets an echo of the girl, and he realises the deception. He grabs Abra and Billy as his group fall into Dans trap.
Dan torture Snakebite Andi, as she lays dying, pressing his hands into her head as she cycles in and out of her own flesh. Danny quickly locates the Crow with his shine, taking control of Abra and managing to wake Billy, who wrestles with the armed crow. Dan uses his shine to break crows hands and forces the gun into his own face and pulls the trigger. Crows cycles, leaving nothing but a bundle of clothes.
With this huge defeat, Rose becomes furious and vengeful. Rose arrange a meeting with Abra and Dan at the remains of the Overlook Hotel, hoping to plan an ambush of her own. However, Dan has a plan. With the Knot hiding inside the remains of the hotel, Dan uses Billy as a distraction, whilst he sneaks up on the group and releases Concetta diseased steam on them. Bewilder by this turn of events, the many of the Knot cling to one another in fear as the steam hits them. They die almost instantly, as the measles had weakened them greatly, leaving Rose the Hat alone and furious. Dan is pretty sure that Concetta’s cancer is gone as well.
“It’s steam, you bastards lived on it, now suck it in and die on it! “
Danny also releases both Mrs Massey; who had disintegrated into nothing, and Horace Derwent from their prison boxes in his mind. Derwent finds Silent Sarey, an almost mute member of the Knot, hiding in a shed and strangles her to death. This is the plot point in which the films uses in its own third act.
Rose, Jack And The Platform
In the film, Rose chases Dan and Abra to the overlook hotel, where she hunts the two down into the lobby. Danny opens his mind boxes and releases all the spirits from the hotel. We see Mrs Massey, Horace Derwent, Delbert Grady and his two daughters amongst others. They attack Rose and send her spinning into her own cycle, ending the True Knot.
In the novel Rose’s death is very different. Rose because hysterical, as the cries of her dying family rip through her mind painfully. She confronts Dan in a rage, on the Overlooks viewing platform, taking control of his mind. Caught in a nightmare, Dan starts to strangle Abra, almost killing the young girl. Billy Freemans (who has a touch of the shine himself) smashes his truck into the side of the platform and breaks Roses immense grip on Dans mind. Rose is unbalanced by the impact and a ghostly wind pushes her over the edge, sending her plummeting down to the ground where she breaks her neck. She smiles as she cycles.
With Abra finally safe from the Knot, Danny and the girl head down to meet up with Billy. As Danny looks up at the viewing platform, he spots his father, Jack Torrance, looking down at him. Jack raises his hand to his son and disappears.
Time to Sleep
The film sees Danny making the ultimate sacrifice and stops “the hotel” from turning off the boiler. He sits down in front of the rumbling machine and is engulf in the flames that quickly spread throughout the hotel. Abra is seen screaming and crying as the hotel burns, as police and fire vehicles can be seen in the distance. Sometime later, we find out that Danny spirit persisted. Much like Dick Hallorann had for him, Danny now watches over Abra as a spiritual guardian. His last lines are extremely poetic, he tells Abra to “Shine on”. King’s inspiration came partly from John Lennon’s song Instant Karma, where Lennon sings “and we all shine on!”
The Book’s ending is less dramatic, but extraordinarily powerful. Abra returns to her Mum and Dad, and Danny returns home. The last pages see Danny a few years later, still sober, still in contact with Abra, working at the hospice. Danny tends a dying patient, and he uses his shine comfort the man, travel through memories past and easing him as he passes over. The Man asks Danny not to leave him, to which Dan takes his hand and tells him that he will stay there until he sleeps.
“Can you help me..? Please Doc? Can you help me?”
Don’t go there!
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“Hey Horror Fans – Shine on my friends. It’s hard to NAIL every element of a book, but some do it better than others. What did you think? Did the film do a good job, or should it be burned to the ground like the OVERLOOK hotel? Smash some comments below and I’ll see you next time!