As a kid in The Shining, Danny Torrance faced the full horrors of the Overlook Hotel. As an adult (Ewan McGregor) getting his life back together in Doctor Sleep, he's trying to keep his past behind him. But when Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl with even stronger psychic powers than himself, reaches out for help against the True Knot, Dan is forced to reckon with old ghosts. So what is the True Knot in Doctor Sleep, and why are they psychic hunting children down?
Whether you call it a "shine," ESP, or as Abra calls it, "magic", the True Knot travel all over the country seeking it out. They're psychic vampires, living indefinitely as long as they can siphon psychic essence — which they call "steam" — from subjects tortured to draw it out. Their victims are usually children with some latent or overt clairvoyant power, as they're both easier to track down and more powerful than adults whose powers often dull as they age. In Doctor Sleep, they've set their sights on Abra, a girl with powers so strong that she caused a minor earthquake with just her mind. They care only about other members of the True Knot and their own survival.
In the 2013 novel, they're monsters hiding in plain sight. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King said he based them originally on RV drivers he'd encounter driving from Maine to Florida and back. "You pass them a thousand times at rest stops. They’re always the ones wearing the shirts that say ‘God Does Not Deduct From a Lifespan Time Spent Fishing.' They’re always lined up at the McDonald’s, slowing the whole line down," he said. "And I always thought to myself, ‘There’s something really sinister about those people because they’re so unobtrusive, yet so pervasive.'"
Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan told Cinema Blend that he realized the True Knot as they're described in the novel might not translate to screen without seeming goofy. "Because they went for the kind of kitschy, polyester, RV culture that I think might be funny if we were to present that literally," he said. "And so Rebecca [Ferguson] and the cast really helped shape this new, very weird, interesting and darker version of them."
Ferguson plays the True Knot's leader, Rose O'Hara, alias Rose the Hat, whose strong psychic abilities track fresh victims to keep the True Knot alive. Her beauty masks a cold, brutal nature; torturing children doesn't bother her a bit. Other members of the roving gang include Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), who used her ability to make others fall asleep to mug abusive men before joining the Knot, and Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker), who can remove her presence from people's minds, allowing her to sneak up on them unaware.
The reasoning behind the name of the group is never fully explained, nor are the group's origins. The closest the novel gets is to describe the Knot's chant as "words that had been old when the True Knot moved across Europe in wagons, selling peat turves and trinkets. They had probably been old when Babylon was young."
The True Knot may have a lot to live up to — namely The Shining's Room 237 and hallway twins — but they're ancient, ruthless, and gunning for Danny and Abra. Doctor Sleep brings them all together to face off on Nov. 8.