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Doctor Sleep Ending Explained – Here’s How Jack Torrance Makes A Cameo in Stephen King’s Movie
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining may be nearly 40 years old, but it’s cemented its status as an all-time horror classic—no matter what Stephen King thinks. And one of the best parts of the film is Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, a frustrated writer who turns on his wife and son under the influence of a gorgeous, deeply haunted hotel. Doctor Sleep, the film adaptation of King’s sequel to his 1977 novel that served as the basis for Kubrick’s film, recreates much of the Overlook and the major characters from the original story. Which means we get to see Jack Torrance once more, though he’s not exactly the Jack we knew.
At the end of the film, Jack’s son Danny returns to the Overlook for the first time in decades to stage a telepathic battle against Rose the Hat, an ancient pseudo-vampire who lives off of the essence of kids who have the shining, as Dan and his new friend, 13-year-old Abra, do. Dan decides that the best way to defeat Rose is to allow the ghosts of the Overlook to consume her—though that means that the spirits will pose a threat to him and Abra, too.
Ahead of Rose’s arrival at the Overlook for the big showdown, Dan enters the hotel to “wake up” the spirits that live there. He heads into the lounge, where, in the film version of The Shining, his alcoholic father was plied with drinks by the ghostly bartender Lloyd. This time, however, Dan sees that his father is Lloyd—much like Grady, the Overlook’s first caretaker, who hacked his twin daughters to death and appears as a phantom bathroom attendant in the original film, Jack Torrance has been absorbed by the hotel, and given the role of the bartender.
But while Lloyd the bartender may be Jack Torrance, he’s not Jack Nicholson. Instead, the scene, like all the film’s Shining-era flashbacks, were recreated with new actors. This time, Jack is played by Henry Thomas, who’s best known as Elliott from E.T. Doctor Sleep was written and directed by Mike Flanagan, and Thomas is a Flanagan staple—he’s also appeared in the filmmaker’s Oujia: The Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game, and starred in his Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House as Crain family patriarch Hugh.
In the Overlook, Dan sits at the bar, and tries to have a heart to heart with his father, who keeps insisting that he’s a bartender named Lloyd, and tries to persuade his long-sober son to take a drink. It’s clear that his spirit has been completely taken over by the hotel, and Dan tries to get through to him to little effect. After Dan decisively refuses the offered whiskey, ghost Jack angrily shoves the glass off of the bar and disappears.
That’s pretty much it; we only see the iconic character for a few minutes. But it’s long enough to prove that even after all these years, whatever humanity was in Jack Torrance is still well and truly gone. The Overlook doesn’t like to give up its ghosts.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.