The bestselling Steven King follow-up to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, has been adapted for the screen and hits theaters on November 8 in the U.S. I got a sneak peek and the Stranger Things meets Logan meets Hocus Pocus vibes all wrapped up in the supernatural zeitgeist of The Overlook Hotel are chilling. But we’ll hear more about that when Tim shares his review.
The Haunting of Hill House director Mike Flanagan tells the story of a now-grown Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) dealing with his personal demons, both physical and metaphysical, in the decades-long aftermath of the events at The Overlook in 1980.
If you’ve watched the film and are now jonesing for a Doctor Sleep ending explained, I get it. There were some nebulous themes (always common in fantasy elements) and departures from the books that had me guessing. What happened as Dan succumbed to the blaze at the overlook? Were the semi-immortal beings in the True Knot, bent on feeding on those with “The Shine,” similar to the ghosts of The Overlook?
*Another warning for spoilers in Doctor Sleep*
Doctor Sleep ending explained
After discovering the homicidal practices of the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), Dan and fellow Shiner, Abra, embark on a quest to rid the world of them, which comes at the expense of the lives of Abra’s father and Dan’s friend and A.A. sponsor. The pair take down most of the group except for Rose, who seemingly can only be confronted with the help of the strongest sinister power of which Dan knows: The Overlook Hotel.
While inside, Dan turns the boilers on to full power and begins revisiting ghosts of his past in the same way his father did in The Shining. Lloyd the bartender is seen wearing the guise of Dan’s father, Jack Torrance (Henry Thomas, yep — the one from E.T.), dishing out temptation in the form of alcohol and familial closure.
Meanwhile, Abra waits in the car to notify Dan that Rose, newly empowered by her recent mass feeding of the ghostly steam that emits from people with The Shine during pain and death, has arrived to claim her revenge. Dan and Abra’s plan is to entrap Rose within Dan’s mind and force her to enter one of his mental boxes, a place he has created to sequester ghosts of his past.
Rose breaks free and attempts to convince Dan to join her in her efforts to live indefinitely. He refuses, and they begin to fight. Rose tortures Dan and feels the power and flavor of his Shine. He calls upon the imprisoned and starving ghosts in his mind to attack and kill her, which they willingly do, until turning on Dan and infecting his mind with the same evil that turned his father 40 years earlier. It appears that both physical beings and ghosts can feed on the steam emitted by those with The Shining.
Abra has fleed to other parts of the hotel where she encounters the ghosts within and eventually Dan, now aiming to kill her with an ax. With her help, he fights off the evil mind control and gets her out of the hotel. In his final moments, he burns the hotel to the ground and himself with it.
Before he dies in the boiler fire at The Overlook, he sees a ghost vision of his mother Wendy (Alex Essoe), which allows him some peace from his guilt surrounding her final days.
Abra escapes and returns to her life with her mother, still grieving the death of her father. She speaks with a ghost Dan in the same way he would speak with his own mentor, Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly). She learns that he and her father are at peace and that we all continue on after death.
What is The Shining?
According to director Mike Flanagan and Steven King, “The Shining” is the supernatural ability to affect things within the physical world with their minds. It can be seen by those with the gifts as a form of steam that emits from the mouth and body.
A young Danny, though powerful, suppressed his Shine in the wake of the trauma he endured, eventually turning to more human demons like alcohol and violence to help him get through his days.
Adult Dan’s subsequent healing led to him re-embracing his skills and connecting with another who shared his gifts. He came to use his mind-reading and psychic abilities to help the dying be at peace in their final moments, thus dubbing him “Doctor Sleep” and giving him a newfound reason to use his gifts for good.
How does the Doctor Sleep movie differ from the novel?
In the novel version of The Shining, Jack Torrance dies in a boiler fire caused by his negligence in keeping up the maintenance of the hotel and it burns along with him. The novel version of Doctor Sleep has its last act take place in Colorado at the site of the hotel, which has become a campsite for the True Knot.
The True Knot, a much larger organization in the book, loses many to a measles outbreak caused by feeding on a victim, and they believe Abra’s steam can heal them due to its raw power. In the effort to save Abra, Dan visits her great-grandmother, Concetta, who is dying of cancer. He learns from her that he and Abra’s mother share a father, Jack Torrance. He really is Abra’s “Uncle Dan.” Dan collects Concetta’s diseased steam and releases it to the remaining members of The True Knot, killing them all.
The ghost of Overlook owner Horace Derwent helps Abra in a psychic battle with Rose, unlike in the film where Abra flees and is confronted by an overcome Dan.
Dan’s friend Billy remains alive and, with help from Dan and the ghost of Jack Torrance, pushes Rose off a platform to her death. After all is well, Dan sees the ghost of his father peacefully wave goodbye to him. Instead of dying in the fire at the hotel, Dan remains alive and, after 15 years of sobriety, remains an uncle and mentor to Abra.
After this Doctor Sleep ending explained, are you planning a rewatch of The Shining before you see Doctor Sleep? I’d recommend it since you’ll have that hotel imagery vivid in your mind to appreciate all of the amazing recreations. Let us know what you thought of the ending in the comments.
Catherine Clark is a Chicago-based editor and designer who spends time reading, gaming, cooking, and of course, watching movies en masse. You can find her words and work at USA Today, Nerd Wallet, Chicago Tribune, NPR, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, MSN, Offbeat Empire, and on her lifestyle blog, BijouxandBits.com. She also logs her film-watching habits on Letterboxd.