However, there are some key areas where the plot of Kubrick’s The Shining conflicts with the novel and its sequel. The character Dick Hallorann is killed by Jack Torrance in the movie, whereas in the book he survives and helps Danny and Wendy escape the doomed Overlook Hotel. This is important because Dick also plays a role in King’s Doctor Sleep novel. He serves as a father figure to Danny early on in the novel, helping him recover from the trauma he faced in the Overlook and teaching him how to better control his “Shining” power. That training in turn becomes pivotal in the climax of Doctor Sleep.
Strangely, Dick will be appearing in the movie adaptation of Doctor Sleep. Carl Lumbly will be taking over the role made famous by Scatman Crothers in the Kubrick movie. Unless Dick is meant to appear solely as a lingering spirit, it’s hard to see how his inclusion lines up with the events of the first movie.
The most fundamental difference between the book and film versions of The Shining, though, involves the nature of the Overlook Hotel and the threat facing the Torrance family. Kubrick brought a purposeful sense of ambiguity to the story. Much of the horror is psychological rather than overtly supernatural. The movie builds a sense of unease as it explores the creepy and sometimes physically impossible layout of the Overlook. Even with iconic scare moments like the Grady Twins, the blood-drenched elevator and the woman in Room 237, the film never makes it clear whether these are actual ghostly manifestations or merely terrifying hallucinations. There’s little in the movie that can’t be explained away as the side effect of a really nasty case of cabin fever.
By comparison, King’s novel makes it pretty clear that the Overlook is genuinely haunted and has become a cesspool of supernatural activity. Nor is there any question as to whether Danny Torrance actually has psychic powers. That straightforward approach carries over to Doctor Sleep. There’s little room for subtlety in a story where the villains are a convoy of RV-driving, senior citizen vampires who feed on the psychic energy of young children.
It’s difficult to see how the Doctor Sleep movie can faithfully recreate the tone and atmosphere of the Kubrick movie while still adhering to the plot of the novel. Flashbacks to the movie are all well and good, but what’s the point of forging that connection if Doctor Sleep can’t replicate the psychological, ambiguous approach of Kubrick’s work? At some point the movie seems to be doing itself a disservice by clinging to Kubrick’s work rather than embracing its differences.
The sequel may have been better off following the example of the 1984 film 2010: The Year We Make Contact. While ostensibly a sequel to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010 made no effort to recreate the look or feel of that film. It instead stuck to the path laid out by Arthur C. Clarke’s novel and side-stepped any unwanted comparisons to one of the most seminal sci-fi movies ever released.
Not surprisingly, writer/director Mike Flanagan seems well aware that the Doctor Sleep novel and movie version of The Shining aren’t wholly compatible. Recently Flanagan said, “It’s an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep, which is Stephen King’s sequel to his novel, The Shining. But this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of The Shining. Reconciling those three at times very different sources has been kind of the most challenging and thrilling part of this creatively for us.”
Hopefully Flanagan can find a way of marrying book and movie and creating an adaptation that bridges the two worlds. But from what we’ve seen of Doctor Sleep so far, it may have made a mistake in trying to forge such a strong connection to a beloved horror movie.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.