Doctor Sleep

Based on 2013’s Stephen King novel of the same name, Doctor Sleep is a direct sequel to The Shining (1977 book; 1980 film adaption). Perhaps in part driven by the success of It and its sequel in theatres currently, Warner Bros. took advantage of the fact that there is already a famous visual language and memory to draw (and market) from the 1980 original. It’s clearly more the product of director Mike Flanagan, rather than paying any serious homage to Kubrick. The trailer music, however, starts from the original’s score, subsequently building on it.

In terms of visual narrative, Dan Torrance is the focus; he was the child with supernatural perception from the original film, now an adult. However, the musical star here is clearly the slow rendition of the “Dies Irae” (Latin; “Day of Wrath”), a famous 13th century Latin Catholic hymn from the Requiem Mass. It’s a melody you’ve likely heard many times before, whether in films like It’s a Wonderful Life or The Exorcist, or even The Lion King—or, indeed, The Shining.

In this version, possibly done by The Newton Brothers (who are at least handling the score for the film proper), we hear a few variations in the arrangement to sustain interest and add a bit of variety that clearly takes from the film’s prequel.

The trailer opens with a couple of current trends in trailer music edits: First, from 0:17-0:24, we hear a deep ticking sound that serves as an anticipatory device, as Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) delivers his introductory monologue. Next, at 0:31 the change in scene to a placid bird’s eye view is accompanied by a single piano note—another trope that has appeared in countless film trailers of a dramatic bent as of late. 

At 0:48 we hear a fragment of the “Dies Irae” for the first time, but it isn’t quite clear yet because it’s only the first four notes, but by 1:02 it’s all but clear. 

At 1:20 we hear a synth version with exactly the same tone and timbre as was used in the main theme of The Shining—it’s an unmistakable throwback that reminds you of the musical conventions used in the trailer campaign for the recent Halloween reboot.

Later, at 1:46, we hear the same synth “Dies Irae,” but suffused by modern sensibilities of epic music arranging, with strong, triplet military percussion, brass, soaring strings harmonies, and the like. Of course, it’s capped off with a reprise of the infamous line from the twin girls: “Come play with us.”

As mentioned, the “Dies Irae” melody is a clear throwback to The Shining. Its unique synth timbre effectively conveys the impending doom on screen, mixing nostalgia with the niceties of modern epic music arranging. Similarly, the visuals include a judicious mix of Kubrickian throwbacks (such as the twin girls) with less familiar scenes mixed in to help sell the promise of a deeper look at mysteries of the Overlook Hotel. 

In all, the trailer for Doctor Sleep is, both musically and visually, perhaps exactly what you would expect from a sequel to The Shining in 2019—not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

— Curtis Perry