SPOILER WARNING! The following article contains major spoilers for Doctor Sleep. If you have not yet seen the film, please continue at your own risk!
Not counting all of the blood that comes pouring out of the elevator doors at the Overlook Hotel, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep really has two primary gore scenes. The first is the death of the Baseball Boy, which sees Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose The Hat and other members of the True Knot slowly killing a purely innocent Jacob Tremblay in a deserted lot. The other is the nice bit of revenge executed by Kyliegh Curran’s Abra, who is able to set up a trap for Rose in her mind, and slams the villain’s hand inside of a filing cabinet filled with memories.
The two scenes are ultimately very much linked, as they are not only the most intense bits of violence in the film, but also it’s because of the death of the Baseball Boy that Abra seeks vengeance in the first place. This is important to recognize, because if you found yourself with a gleeful smile on your face watching Rose The Hat try and free her hand, you should know that the graphic nature of it all is very intentional. It’s designed as a nice bit of catharsis for the audience after watching Rose and the rest of the True Hat do such awful things early in the movie.
This was a subject that came up during my recent interview with writer/director Mike Flanagan at the Los Angeles press day for Doctor Sleep late last month. I asked about the scene where Rose The Hat falls into Abra’s trap following a discussion about the filming of the Baseball Boy sequence, and the filmmaker explained that the film is very much structured for you to really hate the True Knot as you get deeper into the story:
That's the thing about that Jacob [Tremblay] scene, is [that] for the rest of the film every time when someone in the True Knot gets hurt, you love it, and you need that!
What’s also funny about the Rose The Hat trap sequence, however, is that it has solidified what at this point could be called a “director’s trademark” for Mike Flanagan: his tendency to completely mangle hands. The first instance of this can be found in his 2014 movie Oculus, where the narrative’s central supernatural phenomenon manages to trick Rory Cochrane's Alan Russell into peeling off his own fingernails with a staple remover during a flashback sequence. After that, he included it in his movie Hush, with Kate Siegel's Maddie getting her arm jammed in a sliding door and stepped on.
The third previous example of Mike Flanagan’s hand destruction can be found in 2017’s Gerald’s Game – and three makes a pattern. Like the case with Doctor Sleep, the precise mauling was originally detailed in the book of the same name by Stephen King, but in this case has the story’s protagonist, Carla Gugino’s Jesse, performing a de-gloving operation on herself (slicing open her wrist and palm) so that she can escape from a pair of handcuffs.
I specifically brought this up in my interview with Mike Flanagan, who laughed at the assertion that he might have something against hands before suggesting that he may now work to include some extremity mutilation
You know, hands... fuck hands. It was never an intentional thing that all of my movies had to mangle someone's hand, but it really has kind of accidentally gone that way, and I'm just going to lean into it, and now we're just going to do it whether we need to or not. What have hands ever done for anyone? Except everything.
You can watch Mike Flanagan discuss the Rose The Hat trap scene by clicking play on the video below!