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Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep

This story gets into spoilers for Doctor Sleep, so if you haven’t yet seen Mike Flanagan’s masterful adaptation of Stephen King’s story, go watch it right now, and then circle back here.

When Mike Flanagan agreed to adapt Stephen King’s novel Doctor Sleep for the big screen, you have to imagine that the one review of the film that meant the most to him was King’s. Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining, and in tackling it, Flanagan not only brought the book to life, he drew a deeper visual connection to Stanley Kubrick’s Shining movie, which King notoriously disliked.

As it turns out, there was one scene in the movie that Stephen King did ask the director to reconsider, though it had nothing to do with the Overlook Hotel, which dominates the movie’s third act. On a recent episode of The Kingcast, Flanagan opened up and said:

It was one of the only times he leaned over to me during the movie was when [Jacob] Tremblay got killed. He leaned over and he was like 'That’s a little brutal isn’t it?' I was like ‘Shit I gotta go back, I gotta go back and edit this. I gotta pull stuff out.' And we did, we changed it. We backed off. … I think when he saw it, we cut to Jacob two additional times. So there were two more stabs basically. And we took those out.

Jacob Tremblay of Room and Good Boys shows up for a brief but crucial cameo in Doctor Sleep. He plays Baseball Boy, a character who is killed by The True Knot, and it’s a horrifyingly brutal death sequence. The True Knot essentially are vampires, and they feed on the “steam” let off by characters who have the Shine. Baseball Boy has it, and the Knot get it from him in a vicious fashion.

But when Mike Flanagan showed his cut of Doctor Sleep to the author, Stephen King noted it probably needed to be dialed back a tad. And Flanagan goes on to explain that King told him to go back and read the passage in the actual book again, because King does leave details out of the sequence, and writes around the killing of Baseball Boy. As the director went on to comment about the scene, he said:

[King] said to me after as we talked about that, that was his only note for the movie really was, ‘That one’s gonna hurt… You need that, you’re right, but I would have a hard time showing this to my wife so you should think about pulling it back.’ And he was right.

I can’t begin to tell you how much better the Director’s Cut of Doctor Sleep is. And the theatrical cut already was spectacular. The story of redemption for Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and the return to the hallowed ground of The Shining breathes easier and includes crucial details that fans of the book likely missed.

You can get the longer cut of Doctor Sleep on the film’s Blu-ray, on digital platforms, and on HBO’s streaming services at the moment. Make time for it. It’s remarkable. Yes, even Tremblay’s brutal scene.

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