While writer/director Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep is supposed to operate as a sequel to both Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s visions of The Shining, the long standing differences between the two incarnations have always been a bit of a problem. So naturally, when setting off to adapt the sequel novel that picks up with Danny Torrance into his adult years, there was going to be some tricky calculus that would have to be done to bring back fans of King’s writing and Kubrick’s filmmaking back to the theater.
The potential to make Doctor Sleep’s connections to the 1980 film version has always been there, as the author is less than a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of Jack Torrance’s spiral into madness. But true to his intent and promise, Flanagan has found a way to balance his film between the two versions, and it all hinges on one component: the infamous Overlook Hotel.
During a set visit that CinemaBlend’s own Gabe Kovacs attended last fall, shortly before Doctor Sleep wrapped production, it was revealed just how important a return to the setting of The Shining was to how Mike Flanagan wanted to tell the story that follows in its wake. In fact, the director himself explained it pretty clearly as follows:
For us, and I think for a lot of the readers, when I first read the book, I loved what he did with [Danny Torrance], and I loved revisiting that universe. But I just had this real ache to go back to the Overlook. I was really bummed when the book didn't do that. And so for us, it was a question of, ‘How do we try to combine those two worlds in a way that's going to make Stephen feel really satisfied with what we did and also honor the legacy of the Kubrick film and what it means to cinephiles?’
Even if you’re a casual fan of either version of The Shining, it’s easy to agree that going back to The Overlook Hotel decades after those original events is a prospect that’s one of the greatest 'what ifs' of cinematic history. In terms of iconic locations, it stands as a truly landmark venue in general filmmaking history, particularly the horror genre.
Like any memorable haunting, it’s a place that truly sticks with you, simply because the hotel itself is as scary as the things that happen within its damned walls. Whether Doctor Sleep acknowledged the Kubrick film at full force or a dull whisper, it would have always lingered in the minds of its audience, creeping around each corner, waiting for a way to present itself.
You can’t merely dismiss a film such as Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining, as it’s gone on to live a healthy life of its own. It’s a film that’s pretty much universally loved. However, as much as Mike Flanagan wanted to go back to The Overlook Hotel, he needed to get a very important party on board with that very notion.
Which means, Flanagan now has another cool Stephen King story to tell everyone, and tell it he did, in the following words:
[The Shining is,] I think, one of the most influential, if not the most influential horror movie of all time. It would seem like such a wasted opportunity to revisit Dan Torrance and not revisit the Overlook Hotel. So that was a tough call and we needed to get Stephen on board. But when we explained how we wanted to do it, he actually was really enthusiastic about it. Which was a pleasant surprise. If he had not wanted to do that, we wouldn't be here. We wouldn't have done the movie.
It's a pretty brave stance to want to integrate the shared history of The Shining as a film and as a book into a cohesive whole, but it can said definitively that if The Overlook Hotel was to play no part in the enterprise, it was worth scrapping from the start. The look of Stanley Kubrick’s version, as well as the creation of this infamous horror landmark in Stephen King’s book, are equally important to the legacy of the Torrance family saga.
With The Overlook firmly in play, Doctor Sleep is able to play both sides of the Shining fence, which makes it a wonderful way of moving forward in the cinematic and thematic language that Stephen King’s work has inspired over the years. Knowing that King himself is on board and actually anticipates the film’s release makes it all the better, as his approval stokes the fires of anticipation even more.
Those fires will assuredly rage until Doctor Sleep continues the adventures of Danny Torrance, upon its theatrical debut on November 8.