WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Doctor Sleep, in theaters now.
Doctor Sleep had an uphill battle from its inception. As the sequel to the 1980 horror classic, The Shining, it had a high bar to clear. But the film was able to carve out its own story and characters while still finding clever ways to bring elements of the original film into the narrative.
Here are all the best references to The Shining that appear in Doctor Sleep.
The Shining was directed by Stanley Kubrick, who is typically held up as one of the best directors of the 20th century. The Shining wasn't the first time his films had flirted with horror (with the earlier 2001: A Space Odyssey featuring one of cinema's most chilling villains in the robotic HAL), but it did become his first real foray into the genre. The film is photographed and edited in a very particular manner, full of grand shots from above and with plenty of slow dissolves serving as many of the transitions between scenes.
Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan mimics this style in the sequel, ensuring that it can be seen as a continuation of the original from a metatextual filmmaking perspective. Even some direct sequences are recreated almost shot for shot, including the aerial perspective as Dan and Abra approach the Overlook Hotel to lure Rose the Hat there. It's deliberately modeled on the opening moments of The Shining including the wide-angle shots used when the Torrances first went into the mountains to go to the Overlook Hotel, recreating the effect of moving through the landscape.
Most of the distinct spirits that appeared in The Shining have some kind of role to play in Doctor Sleep. They target Dan after the closing of the Overlook Hotel, trying to claim him after the events of the previous movie led to the shutdown of the hotel. Some of the more iconic moments from the original movie (such as the Grady Twins and the rotting Old Woman in Room 237) appear to Dan across the course of the film, either as new threats to him in his adulthood or as flashbacks to his days at the Overlook. Dan learned to lock them away in his mind, although he's forced to unleash them all in the climax.
Dan even makes specific reference to one of the specific spirits, Mister Garrity. Garrity appeared only briefly in the original film, standing out as one of the few spirits who only targeted Wendy as she tried to flee her husband. He had a large bloody gash in his head, although this didn't lower his spirits in the slightest. Instead, he greeted Wendy with a big smile and a jovial "great party, isn't it?" Dan specifically mentions meeting that spirit when he talks to the ghost of Hallorann after years apart, complaining about how frustrating that man was and that he was the last spirit that he had to seal away.
With most of the True Knot eliminated, Dan and his protege Abra realized they're about to face the full force of Rose the Hat. They lure her to the Overlook Hotel, where they can use the inherent power of the location to assist in their fight against her. Upon arriving, the hotel slowly comes back to life, and even moreso when Rose gets there -- she sees the famous shot of an elevator emptying blood into the hall. She soon finds Dan and Abra in the room where Jack Torrance once tries to write his novel. Dan even has an ax for his own protection, an inversion of how his father used one to try to kill his family in the previous film.
Their duel takes place on two planes, both references to The Shining: the first half of the battle is inside Dan's mental projection of the hedge maze from outside the Hotel. This was the location of the climax to the previous film. The version of it in Dan's mind is where he's kept the various spirits that have attacked him. There, Abra is able to use the area to attack and distract Rose, giving Dan the chance to try and contain her. But when that fails and they return to the real world, Dan tries to kill Rose with the ax on the stairs, in a moment that's reminiscent of Wendy using a baseball bat to defend herself against Jack in the original film.
After he's forced to unleash the spirits he'd long contained within his mind, they kill Rose. But then they promptly turn on Dan, attacking and overwhelming him. This leads to the hotel possessing Dan much in the same way his father was taken over by the Overlook in The Shining. The hotel then turns on Abra, forcing her to essentially do a speed-run through and around all the unleashed spirits. The whole time, she's chased by Dan.
The full reference is recreated by Dan's limp. Having taken the ax to the leg during his fight with Rose, he now has the kind of limp that Jack had when he chased Dan through the real hedge maze at the end of The Shining. It gives the entire sequence a deeper thematic connection to the original film, pushing Dan to the absolute edge before giving him the chance to do what his father never could and come back from the influence of the Overlook Hotel.
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.
KEEP READING: Every Shining Character Who Returns in Doctor Sleep