Doctor Sleep: All the Changes Made From Stephen King's Novel

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Sleep, in theaters now.

Director Mike Flanagan covers a lot of ground connecting his adaptation of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, not just to its parent book, but also to The Shining, as it's a sequel to both Stanley Kubrick's movie as well as the novel. As expected, there are quite a few subversions Flanagan makes so let's compare how he alters the journey of a tortured Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as he discovers the villainous True Knot are out to feed on his steam and others like him.

RELATED: Doctor Sleep's Best References to The Shining

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In the Doctor Sleep novel, Wendy Torrance asked the Overlook Hotel's chef, Dick, to visit her son to help him get over the trauma of his dad, Jack, going mad and trying to kill them at the winter escape. Dan has been seeing ghosts from Room 237 ever since, but Dick comforted him and helped him hone his Shine. He taught the boy about his own grandmother who had powers too and with his aid, Dan learns to make his ghost traps.

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In the sequel film, Carl Lumbly takes over the role of Dick Hallorann from Scatman Crothers who appeared in The Shining. Here, Dick is dead, as Jack murdered him with an axe in Kubrick's film. He appears as a ghost early on with young Danny, teaching him about the ghost boxes, as well as later in the film when Dan's searching for purpose. Dick tells him to become Abra's mentor and protect her the same way he did Dan.


This arc is changed up a lot from the book, starting with Danny waking up in North Carolina after a drunken night out with a woman named Deenie that he met at a bar. In the film version, this takes place in New Jersey, but that's just a minor change. The big one comes with baby Tommy who Danny finds next to some lines of coke when he's trying to escape with some of Deenie's cash. He places the toddler by his mom and is haunted by guilt, later on, surmising the kid died at the hands of an abusive uncle, driving Deenie to kill herself.

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The film finds Danny trying to escape with cash after the one-night stand too, but when he meets Tommy, the kid isn't drugged up, mistaking it for candy. He steals the money and bolts after placing the boy on the bed near Deenie, but later on, it does appear they're dead as Danny has a vision of their corpses in his bed. Some fans think it's a nightmare, but given Danny's knack for seeing spirits, it's most likely Deenie overdosed and her kid was left unattended, eventually dying.


In the book, Concetta, lovingly referred to as Momo by Abra (the girl with the strongest Shine), has a huge role. She's dying of cancer and when she's visited by Dan, she shares insight into her own abilities and what's needed to defeat the True Knot. She actually uses her Shine to help him later on, acting as a distraction of sorts against the Knot.

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However, in the film, Momo gets a cameo thanks to a slight mention by Abra's mother. She tells the young girl she's going to visit her mother who isn't doing well, and Abra expresses disappointment when her grandma's cancer is mentioned. Her mom even asks her to use her powers to see if Momo will survive her recent downturn and she reluctantly does, not revealing the answer, however. Furthermore, the book reveals Jack had an affair with Concetta, with Abra's mom being Dan's half-sister. Thus, Abra is his niece, but this is totally left out in the film, apart from her calling Dan "uncle" in public so people wouldn't think he was a predator hanging out with her.


When Dan arrives in New Hampshire in the novel, he receives a job from Casey Kingsley. Kingsley takes a chance on him as he can tell Danny's a recovering alcoholic. He offers Dan work but he has to sober up and attend AA where Doctor John kindles a friendship with him. The doctor also reveals Dan's link to Abra's family as people with the Shine as well.

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Kingsley's role is combined with Billy's (Cliff Curtis) in the movie as Billy offers Dan work. Doctor John does appear briefly as the head of Danny's AA group, though, after discovering Danny's powers, which the latter used to find the Doctor's lost watch. It's never revealed whether or not John knows Abra's family, but he does place Danny to work in a hospice as he knows he can help the old people pass into the afterlife in peace with his Shine.


In King's novel, after murdering a young boy, several members of the Knot slowly contract measles and perish. It's anticlimactic, although King makes up for this when he has the others dying due to a red steam Danny unleashed after he breathed it in following Concetta's death. It's a bit convoluted so we understand Flanagan not using the 'cancer breath' ability here. Others abandoned their leader, Rose, who became obsessed with Abra, only to then die off.

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All of these things are scrapped in the film. No one leaves Rose's side as they're loyal to the end. They die when Billy and Danny snipe them off at a campsite. As for Grandfather Flick, he dies as his steam has run out, allowing the others to feed, which sort of acts likes the movie's spin on measles.


The Doctor Sleep novel had no Overlook Hotel as it was burnt down at the end of The Shining. Danny did return to the campsite, however, where the Overlook Hotel was to face off against Rose, but the hotel itself is completely demolished. On the novel's first page, that's perfectly clear as King describes it burning to the ground because of a defective boiler.

RELATED: How Doctor Sleep Sets Up a Sequel

In the film, Danny and Abra travel to the Overlook Hotel for a final showdown with Rose after the rest of the Knot are killed. Danny unleashes many of the ghosts from the hotel (which didn't turn to ash in Kubrick's movie) so they can attack Rose, even meeting the spirit of Jack at the bar to gain closure. None of this was possible in the novel without a hotel, so having it appear in the sequel allowed Flanagan to make several nods to Kubrick's movie.


In the book, assisted by Abra's astral projection at the hotel, Danny pushes Rose off of an observation platform at the Overlook, causing her to fall to the ground, break her neck and die. The movie kills Rose differently as the ghosts Danny unleashes devour her in a frenzy inside the hotel.

RELATED: Doctor Sleep Reveals the Final Fate of Wendy Torrance

As for Billy, he survives the book along with Abra, but in the film, after shooting Rattlesnake Andi, another member of the cult, Andi commands Billy to kill himself using her Purple Man-like powers. And so he does on screen in a horrific forced suicide using a shotgun. Additionally, Crow Daddy is killed when Danny causes a car crash by astral projecting into Abra's body during a botched kidnapping in the film, which doesn't happen in the book. Crow killing Abra's dad is also added in by Flanagan for dramatic effect as the father survived in the novel when the girl was snatched.


Doctor Sleep Ewan McGreggor

In the book, after killing Rose, Danny goes on to celebrate 15 years of sobriety with his new family at a birthday party for Abra. He's embraced his role as her mentor and also, uncle, promising to look after her, repaying the love Dick showed him as a troubled youth.

The film makes a drastic change to this as Danny sacrifices himself to save Abra. He tampers with the Overlook's boiler and burns the hotel to the ground so its malevolent spirits can die with him. He reconciles with the ghost of Wendy (who dies of cancer on the big screen instead of Concetta) and Danny's spirit later connects with Abra, mentoring her from the afterlife on what to do with her Shine.

Written and directed by Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Alex Essoe and Zahn McClarnon. The film is now playing everywhere.

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