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SYFY WIRE doctor sleep

Doctor Sleep awakens first terrifying trailer for Stephen King adaptation

By Adam Pockross & Josh Weiss
Doctor Sleep

Heeeeeeere's Danny! Wake up, Stephen King fans, because Doctor Sleep — the similarly named adaptation of King’s sequel to The Shining, and also somehow of Stanley Kubrick’s much-changed adaptation of that 1977 novel — is arising, and Warner Bros. just dropped the first terrifying teaser trailer. But is it a sequel to King’s original vision, or to Kubrick’s very different one?

“It is an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep, which is Stephen King's sequel to his novel The Shining, but this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of The Shining. And reconciling those three at times very different sources has been kind of the most challenging and thrilling part of this creatively for us,” writer/director Mike Flanagan told SYFY WIRE (along with other select outlets) yesterday at a screening room in Hollywood, while previewing the trailer below alongside his producing partner and fellow “not-just-casual-fan,” Trevor Macy.

Watch the trailer now:

For those of you who have been nodding off since the early '80s, Doctor Sleep is King’s 2013 sequel to 1977's The Shining. The sequel tells the tale of grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), now going by Dan and trying to rid himself of the complete scarring, anger, and alcoholism that his all-work-and-no-play dad left him with after the petrifying events at the Overlook Hotel.

“The novel picks him up at rock bottom, in the throes of that addiction and trying to overcome it, and then kind of carries him through his recovery. I think in a lot of ways The Shining is about alcoholism and Doctor Sleep is actually about recovery. They go together pretty well that way,” said Flanagan.

The title of the film comes from Dan’s nickname at the hospice he has started working at, after hitting addiction’s rock bottom and getting back on his feet. With the newfound clarity, Dan starts to use his self-silenced “shining” powers again, to help guide hospice patients passing to the other side. So patients around the place start calling him Doctor Sleep, and there’s a nice Shining callback there, too.

With his shining back, Doc Dan connects with a phenomenally gifted teenager, Abra Stone, played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran, “who shines as well, and even more so than he did as a kid,” said Flanagan. And she’s desperately in need of some psychic help, much as Danny needed Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) back in the Overlook days.

Doctor Sleep teaser poster

“Watching young Abra embrace her powers in the same way that he’s eschewed them his whole life, she really draws him out and completes … he’s living with the reverberations of these horribly traumatic childhood events that in a sense all of the audience lived with him,” said Macy. “And she is finally the catalyst to draw him out and cause him to deal with that.”

“And in this case, Dan, who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the shining and with his own powers, is reluctantly brought into a situation where he’s going to be responsible for somebody,” said Flanagan. “And that story, that’s what really connected us to this: someone who feels so broken in their own life trying to fix themselves by taking care of someone else.”

And he wasn’t the only one who saw it immediately. “When she left the room, Ewan kind of looked at us, and we’re all kind of shell-shocked by it, and he said, ‘Well, it’s clearly her, isn’t it?’”

Indeed, Flanagan says their relationship is at “the heart of the movie,” as Abra needs Dan’s help to survive against evil Rose the Hat’s (Rebecca Ferguson) — “probably the best antagonist that King had written in 20 years when the book was published” — and her merry band of steam-stealing quasi-immortals, The True Knot.

If you’ve read the book, you know Rose “jumps off the page,” and that her character is perfectly ripe for scene-stealing. Flanagan assured us that Ferguson accomplishes as much in every scene she’s in. And while he couldn't get into specifics about THAT scene in particular, he noted, "I want to make sure that we adapt the book faithfully, and that we were never going to be PG-13 anyway.”

Doctor Sleep

Though this is her first film, Curran beat out some 900 other actors for the job after her self-taped audition rose to the top of the pile. Flanagan apparently knew she was a star the moment she came in to read with McGregor (the bench scene shown in the trailer) and “she just WAS Abra. It was one of those things that was so clear, so fast. And it was such a shock for someone who had so little experience to be able to do that,” said Flanagan.

So prepare for hard-R nightmares aplenty, as Doctor Sleep — also starring Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton, Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann, and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance — is set to awaken in theaters Nov. 8, 2019.