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Doctor Sleep’s Kubrick Recreations: Cool or Overkill?

In an age where some directors make one indie film and jump straight to a $200 million blockbuster, Mike Flanagan’s career as a director has evolved in ways we don’t see that often anymore:

He started out with a series of attention-grabbing relationship dramas which were only hits on the festival circuit, paid the bills for years as an editor for hire on TV shows he didn’t love, and then truly made a name for himself as the writer and director of a series of well-received, low-budget horror movies (Oculus, Hush, Gerald’s Game). Cinephiles and horror hounds knew and revered his work, but the general public wasn’t as aware of him until he broke through with a Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House which became the only thing #FilmTwitter was talking about for a good two to three weeks.

Every step of the way, Flanagan upped his ambitions, budgets, and technical expertise, taking him right up to the point where the next logical step is to finally helm a film franchise. Some jump to a Fast and the Furious. Others want to see what it’s like to make a superhero movie. Flanagan opted instead to produce a sequel to one of the most-revered horror movies of all time: The Shining.

Well, technically, he’s adapting Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s 2013 novel about an adult Danny Torrance being sucked back into the world of the supernatural when a little girl with a similar shine ability seeks him out. This project was announced last year, but until last week we didn’t realize how hard Flanagan was going to lean into the idea of this being a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic film.


It’s more complicated than it appears, though:

  • Those aren’t the real scenes from The Shining; they’re meticulous recreations made by Flanagan and crew. The only shot in the trailer which is actually from the original film is the blood elevator sequence.
  • This isn’t just a sequel to Kubrick’s film; it’s a sequel to King’s original Shining novel as well, which is ever-so confusing since the film and book differ in several significant ways.
    • Case in point: Dick Halloran survives King’s novel which is why the author included him as a character in Doctor Sleep. He dies literally within minutes of trying to help little Danny Torrance in Kubrick’s film. So, given that kind of discrepancy how can the Doctor Sleep film function as both a Kubrick sequel AND King sequel? Very, very carefully. The Doctor Sleep official cast list does include Carl Lumbly as Halloran. I wouldn’t be surprised if they run with the idea of him simply being paralyzed instead of dead. Or he could just be a ghost.
  • Moreover, Flanagan promises there might even be some easter eggs for those fans who prefer or at least appreciate the Mick Garris-directed Shining mini-series from the 90s.

I feel a tad uneasy about them recreating Kubrick’s scenes, largely because after Ready Player One haven’t we had our fill of that kind of slavish homage? However, in this case it’s helpful to know a little about the plot of the Doctor Sleep novel. It climaxes with Danny reluctantly returning to the Overlook Hotel to defeat the villain of the piece, a woman named Rose the Hat (because King and his character names, amiright?), and any kind of film adaptation of that plot would naturally want to recreate the look of Kubrick’s version of the Overlook.

Based on the Ready Player One experience, I’m sure the recreations will look astonishing but I hope they won’t pull us out of the movie. I hope Doctor Sleep will stand on its own and not merely come off as Flanagan cosplaying Kubrick. However, this is the man who adapted a Stephen King novel, Gerald’s Game, everyone in Hollywood regarded as being unadaptable. Plus, as Oculus and The Haunting of Hill House illustrate haunted house stories about long-lasting emotional trauma? Totally Mike Flanagan’s jam. So, who better to take Danny Torrance back to the Overlook?

Once he’s there, though, I wonder what ghosts he’ll bump into. Might we see some version of Jack Torrance? The internet sure thinks so.

Doctor Sleep drops November 9, 2019.

Sources: IndieWire, BloodyDisgusting

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