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A hospice worker with psychic abilities must confront the horrors of his past to protect a young girl from a murderous cult in the first trailer for Doctor Sleep, the big-screen adaptation of horror master Stephen King's novel. It's a sequel of sorts, since both the novel and film explore what happened to young Danny Torrance as he grew into adulthood after the horrifying events of The Shining.
(Spoilers for The Shining novel and film; mild spoilers for Doctor Sleep the novel.)
King published The Shining in 1977. It became his first hardback bestseller and was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, starring Jack Nicholson as struggling alcoholic and aspiring writer Jack Torrance. Initial reviews weren't particularly favorable—King himself is not a fan of the film—but it's now considered a horror classic.
For those not familiar with the story, Jack Torrance takes a position as the winter caretaker of the remote Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies, bringing his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny has a psychic gift, called “the shining,” which lets him communicate telepathically with the hotel cook, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers). The hotel is haunted, and the previous caretaker went mad and murdered his family. Jack ultimately succumbs to the same madness, although Wendy and Danny manage to escape with their lives.
In the follow-up novel, Doctor Sleep, King sought to continue Danny's story as the boy grows up and struggles to recover from the psychological trauma he experienced at the Overlook Hotel. He has learned to contain the ghosts in a mental “lockbox” but still spends years as an alcoholic—the drinking suppresses the shining—wandering from town to town. Now in his 40s, Dan finally gets sober and settles in a New Hampshire town called Frazier. He gets a job at a hospice, where he uses his newly re-emerged psychic gift to comfort patients who are terminal, earning him the moniker Doctor Sleep. (He's aided in this by a cat, inspired by a real-life therapy cat named Oscar who some claimed could predict the deaths of the terminally ill.)
Dan also forms a psychic connection with a young girl, Abra Stone, whose psychic powers are as strong as his own. When she witnesses the murder of a boy by members of a local cult called the True Knot, she turns to Dan for help. The True Knot members feed off “steam,” a psychic essence that comes from people with the shining who die in pain—although they can also contract illnesses, like measles, from their victims. The True Knot targets Abra, believing they can torture her indefinitely to give them a steady supply of “steam.” It's up to Dan to protect her.
This first trailer for the film opens with an ominous “Hello” written on a blackboard in a grown Dan Torrance's home. We also see Danny writing on the board himself, so he seems to be communicating with someone. Eventually, he connects with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who tells him, “You're magic. Like me,” when they finally meet. Dan tells her he always called it the shining but warns, “The world's a hungry place. A dark place.” The True Knot makes an ominous appearance, headed by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), and we see her sucking the “steam” from one victim and targeting a little girl as her next.
Mike Flanagan, who wrote and directed last year's stunning adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, also wrote and directed this film. Flanagan has said the film will be a direct adaptation of the novel, augmented with a few obligatory nods to The Shining, since it takes place in the same cinematic universe. We get several direct callbacks to Kubrick's film in the trailer: a young Danny riding his tricycle through the Overlook Hotel's maze-like hallways, the creepy twins (“Come play with us”), the ghost in the bathtub, and of course, the torrents of blood pouring out of the hotel elevators.
I'm cautiously optimistic; Flanagan has proven he can handle the psychological complexities of classic horror with The Haunting of Hill House, and King's work is very much in the same vein. That's what drew Flanagan to the project in the first place. “It touches on themes that are the most attractive to me, which are childhood trauma leading into adulthood, addiction, the breakdown of a family, and the after effects, decades later,” he told Collider last fall.
Doctor Sleep hits theaters November 8, 2019.
<em>Listing image by <a href="http://www.warnerbros.com/">YouTube/Warner Bros.</a></em>