Stephen King is a gifted author, an auteur of horror. Ever since he published “Carrie” in 1974, his presence has always been felt in the publishing world.
One year later, he created “Salem’s Lot” (still one of the freakiest dang books I’ve ever ripped through). And then came, what many believe was his triumph (in only his third book).
Of course, it was “The Shining.”
That was 1977. It only took three years for it to become a film. Out of all the directors out there, King’s book got the attention of Stanley Kubrick. The man made Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
At least 98% of all directors would pray to have one of those films in his or her catalog. This dude has at least five!
(Oh yeah, he directed Full Metal Jacket too.)
Kubrick’s vision for making movies is already slightly askew, to be kind. Then, he delved into Stephen King’s book. A match made in, well, wherever something that twisted hails.
The King’s Ransom
As most horror fans know, Stephen King’s reaction to Kubrick’s vision of his book was a visceral and vocal bloodletting. “Hate” would be an oversimplification. In 2006, he gave some unfettered access to The Paris Review, where he discussed–among other things in what is a fantastic read for all King fans–his ignominy toward The Shining.
[Kubrick’s adaptation was] Too cold. No sense of emotional investment in the family whatsoever on his part. I felt that the treatment of Shelley Duvall as Wendy—I mean, talk about insulting to women. She’s basically a scream machine. There’s no sense of her involvement in the family dynamic at all.
And Kubrick didn’t seem to have any idea that Jack Nicholson was playing the same motorcycle psycho that he played in all those biker films he did—Hells Angels on Wheels, The Wild Ride, The Rebel Rousers, and Easy Rider. The guy is crazy. So where is the tragedy if the guy shows up for his job interview and he’s already bonkers? No, I hated what Kubrick did with that.
You’ve taken away its primary purpose, which is to tell a story. The basic difference that tells you all you need to know is the ending. Near the end of the novel, Jack Torrance tells his son that he loves him, and then he blows up with the hotel. It’s a very passionate climax. In Kubrick’s movie, he freezes to death.
Needless to say, King wasn’t a fan and he has kept true to the initial impression all of these decades later. That is, until Mike Flanagan gave him a screening of the sequel, Doctor Sleep.
Fit for a King
A word to describe his work could be “daring,” which is precisely what Doctor Sleep came to be.
Flanagan, who considers King to be his “hero” and said the The Shining (despite King’s disdain) “completely changed the way [he] looked at the world,” decided the best way to adapt his sequel was to create it in the Kubrick universe, as he shared with EW:
“The Shining is so ubiquitous and has burned itself into the collective imagination of people who love cinema in a way that so few movies have.
There’s no other language to tell that story in. If you say ‘Overlook Hotel,’ I see something. It lives right up in my brain because of Stanley Kubrick. You can’t pretend that isn’t the case.
[Flanagan] was reluctant. And then I said, ‘Well, let me tell you how I would approach it.’ I pitched him one scene inside the Overlook. I said, ‘The rest of the story, I’m going to try and stay as faithful as I possibly can, but the final fight will take place — instead of on the grounds that used to be the Overlook — it’s actually inside the space. I pitched him one scene, and then he thought about it, and he came back, and said, ‘Okay, then go ahead.’”
That takes brass–to sit in front of your muse and change his mind about the one thing he hates almost as much as our current Commander-in-Chief (go see his thoughts on Twitter for that).
And, Flanagan became Flan-a-can.
(Editor’s Note: Okay, even I’m sorry about that one.)
“I read the script to this one very, very carefully,” [King] tells EW. “Because obviously I wanted to do a good job with the sequel, because people knew the book The Shining, and I thought, I don’t want to screw this up. Mike Flanagan, I’ve enjoyed all his movies, and I’ve worked with him before on Gerald’s Game.
So, I read the script very, very carefully and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here.”
If you are King fan, or even a Flanagan fan, you have to fist-pumping right now. That is really cool for a director to change the mind of someone he has idolized since a kid.
“This was really cool,” says the director. “I finished the movie, I brought the film to Bangor, [Maine, where King lives], and I showed him Doctor Sleep. I sat with him in an empty theater and watched the movie with him.
I spent the whole movie trying not to throw up, and staring at my own foot, and kind of overanalyzing every single noise he made next to me. The film ended, and the credits came up, and he leaned over and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘You did a beautiful job.’ And then I just died.
Easily, Oscar can suck it. Down with the Golden Globes. That was Flanagan’s moment. Well done. Stay tuned on MoviesMatrix next week as we will have a review of Doctor Sleep and what’s bound to be a skillful Easter Egg hunt.
Movie Images courtesy of: Warner Bros./Intrepid Entertainment/Vertigo Pictures