Earlier today, the world was introduced to the first trailer for the upcoming horror film “Doctor Sleep.” Despite its relatively silly title, the film is actually one of the more anticipated films of the fall, due to its source material from legend Stephen King and its connection to one of the greatest films of the genre, “The Shining.” And in the trailer, it appears that director Mike Flanagan is hoping to have a foot in both the King camp and the Stanley Kubrick camp.
The footage shown holds back very little in the way of imagery that has been seen in Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Images of the blood elevator, the woman in the bathtub, and the twins at the end of the hallway, all three of which are iconic moments in film, have been utilized in the new film. However, how is it possible to both please the fans of the sequel novel (which is basically King’s middle finger to the Kubrick film, which he is not quiet about disliking immensely) and the original, classic film?
“It is an adaptation of the novel ‘Doctor Sleep’, which is Stephen King’s sequel to his novel ‘The Shining,’” said Flanagan (via Bloody Disgusting). “But this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of ‘The Shining’ and reconciling those three, at times very different sources has been kind of the most challenging and thrilling part of this creatively, for us.”
As mentioned, King and Kubrick never saw eye-to-eye about “The Shining.” As you might expect, the author is a big fan of his original book, while Kubrick is a filmmaker, first and foremost, and changed quite a bit of the source material to better suit his vision of the film. So, bridging that gap between King and Kubrick required some finesse on the part of Flanagan, who had to have multiple meetings with the author to get his approval.
“We had to go to King and explain how, and some of that amounts to very practical questions about certain characters who are alive in the novel, ‘The Shining,’ who are not alive by the end of the film,” Flanagan said. “How do I deal with that? And in particular how to get into the vision of the Overlook that Kubrick had created.”
He continued, “And our pitches to Stephen went over surprisingly well, and we came out of the conversation with not only his blessing to do what we ended up doing, but his encouragement.”
As for how much of the Kubrick film is used in “Doctor Sleep,” Flanagan thinks fans will be very surprised by the answer. In the trailer alone, which features plenty of ‘Shining’ imagery, only the elevator scene was pulled from the original film.
“There’s only one shot in the trailer you saw that’s actually his footage, and that’s the shot of the bloody elevators,” said the filmmaker. “Everything else is us. Everything else is our recreation.”
Flanagan says that he and his crew spent immense amounts of time to be as faithful to the vision that Kubrick put forth in “The Shining,” even going so far as to get the deceased filmmaker’s estate to agree to pass along original designs.
The “Doctor Sleep” director says the film’s “intention was always to detail and reverence, and making sure that we were doing it properly, with the hope that even the most rabid cinephiles might not be able to tell the difference with some of our frames and some of his.”
Other than including various homages to the classic horror film from decades ago, Flanagan says that he also learned a valuable lesson from Kubrick’s “The Shining.” He says that “Doctor Sleep” will be the rare modern-day horror film that includes no jump scares, as the Kubrick original was able to haunt people without the cheap formula that is being used to death by now.
Even if you’re not super excited about “Doctor Sleep,” there is likely going to be plenty of film fans that watch it just to figure out every mention, Easter Egg, and homage to the Kubrick film. And that will likely fuel plenty of debate. Should be fun!