Is Doctor Sleep A Sequel To The Shining Novel Or The Movie?

Doctor Sleep Ewan McGregor sees some writing in the mirror

With the push and pull of public opinion between the audience that covets Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and that of the book’s author, Stephen King, one has to wonder if the film adaptation of its sequel novel, Doctor Sleep, will adhere to either the source or the film.

Thankfully, the answer to that question was something we learned pretty quickly, as CinemaBlend’s own Gabe Kovacs visited the set of Doctor Sleep and found out from a pretty reliable source that the film would act as a sequel to both incarnations.

That source happened to be producer Trevor Macy, who was on hand during the press day as the film was progressing through its production last fall. And the way Macy puts it is probably the best, as he described the logistics of this prospect thusly:

I speak for Mike [Flanagan] as well when I say we are dearly in love with both for different reasons. So our job is to thread the needle and take the best of the DNA from both of them and hopefully bring that to the audience today in a fun and engaging way. We aren't trying to be custody of one party versus another in the Kubrick/King divorce.

That divorce is the now infamous decades long story of how Stephen King has, on numerous occasions, stated he hated Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of The Shining. His reasoning was that the film was vastly untrue to his original vision, and judging by the differences between the film and the movie, one could see why.

On the outside, it might feel like it’s an easy feat to ignore the movie version, and just film a true-to-book version of its sequel. You could easily be vague about the events that truly transpired and just have Ewan McGregor’s Danny Torrance grow up in such a way that either the Jack Nicholson version of his father Jack or the literary source material's version could apply. Only, it’s not that easy.

As Trevor Macy lays out below, The Shining just has that special something that fans latch onto when they first see it. Even throwing away the source material, the film has become a benchmark horror film.

Stephen King has his own opinions about the quality of [Stanley Kubrick’s] adaptation, but it's impossible to argue that the Kubrick film isn't amazing, seminal, unique. So, you know, we certainly aren't trying to out-Kubrick Kubrick. This is its own thing.

The Shining didn’t become a classic just by existing, as Kubrick’s approach to the material still catches fire with the collective imaginations of fans who encounter it. The Wendy Carlos score, that crazy rug pattern you can buy sweaters of, even the simple image of Jack Nicholson shouting “Heeeere’s Johnny!” are all indelibly grafted into our horror pop consciousness. So even if Doctor Sleep was to ignore its cinematic predecessor, and its contributions, the audience would still be connecting the dots.

Certainly for Doctor Sleep to exist in this form, Stephen King would have to be involved and would also have to trust writer/director Mike Flanagan as the man to do the project justice. That’s a pretty easy scenario to game out, as not only has Flanagan worked on King’s material before, courtesy of Netflix’s adaptation of Gerald’s Game, but the master of horror himself even gave a seal of approval to the director’s work on The Haunting of Hill House. It’s because of this that Mike Flanagan has found himself in the rarified air of the likes of Frank Darabont, a man who also had the Midas Touch with Stephen King’s work, as he adapted The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist into fan favorites.

The history of The Shining, both in its book and movie incarnations, is always going to be complicated. But thanks to Doctor Sleep, it looks like there’s going to be something that both sides of the aisle will be able to enjoy in the long run. And if you don’t trust our word on that claim, let Mr. King himself convince you.

Doctor Sleep haunts theaters everywhere on November 8, while The Haunting Of Hill House and Gerald’s Game are both available on Netflix. And if you want to see The Shining movie as you’ve never seen it before, it will be re-released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on October 1.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.