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‘The Shining’ is a book published in 1977 about a recovering alcoholic and struggling writer named Jack Torrence who takes a job at the Overlook Hotel in the Rockies as a caretaker for the off-season in hopes of finding inspiration in the isolation. Bringing along his wife and their young son–who has psychic powers and is able to see ghosts and witness the horrific past of the hotel’s bloody history– a snowstorm leaves them stranded with a menacing spirit taking control of Jack who violently torments his family.
The film, based on the book, written for the screen and directed by Stanley Kubrick was not well-received on release, even slightly condemned by King, who criticized the work, most especially the character of Wendy, Jack’s tortured wife. It has since become a modern horror classic, a singular masterpiece misunderstood during its theatrical run for this subtle themes and visionary storytelling. So beloved, it is regarded as the greatest movie in the genre in all of cinema. Toping that seems an impossible task.
King wrote a sequel in 2013, finally feeling comfortable with returning to the story. In the novel, Danny Torrence, the son, is now a middle-aged man haunted by the experience at the Overlook. Much like his father, he becomes an alcoholic, and remains a drifter, meandering around the country as the ghosts of the past literally still try to consume him. He eventually settles in New Hampshire where he gives up drinking, which unleashes his suppressed psychic abilities. Trying to do good, with the help a cat who can sense when people are about to die, he uses his powers to comfort terminal patients, earning the name ‘Doctor Sleep’. Meanwhile, a girl named Abra, born in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, gains similar powers and a connection is formed, leading Danny (now, Dan) to confront a group of quasi-immortals who feed on the ‘steam’ of people like him, a psychic essence produced in death.
Talk of doing more with The Shining is nothing new. Currently in some form of production is a project called The Overlook Hotel, which will serve as a prequel to the story, yet is a stand alone movie not written by King. Being directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), that film is the history of the hotel and not the Torrence family, not connected in any way to the characters in the book or Kubrick film.
While rumors persisted about what would become of Doctor Sleep, we now know that it will be a movie and is being adapted for the big screen by Oscar-winning writer, Akiva Goldsman. Behind such films a I am Legend, The Da Vinci Code, Insurgent, and A Beautiful Mind, which nabbed him the Academy Award, he has plenty of experience adapting books to film. The difference here is that Doctor Sleep comes built-in with a heavy does of expectation. Fans may not care about the details of the story, but they will want to see the original’s legacy secure. That in itself is a heavy burden, but at least Goldsman will be able to work directly with King and that might be just the thing to keep this project on the right track.
No word yet on who will direct and of course. The possibilities are exciting and if names are being considered, we’d like to see Jennifer Kent on top of that list. Her work behind the camera of 2014’s The Babadook still resonants as one of the best psychological horror films ever made and feels tailor-made for this story. And that immediately raises the question of just where is the adaptation going to go? The line is thin between gore-horror and psychological thriller and we hope that Goldsman will focus on the latter.
Either way, all of this is good news, and while any film could go good or bad, there is sure to be some special attention brought to the making of Doctor Sleep. It’s a good time for King fans, and more so for Kubrick film lovers as a renewed interest will certainly get more eyes on his classic. As we learn more, we’ll keep you posted.