Be aware there are full spoilers for Doctor Sleep below.
There’s been a haunted hotel’s worth of Stephen King adaptations over the years, but few filmmakers have a knack for tapping into King’s signature blend of heart, guts and gore like writer/director Mike Flanagan and his longtime producing partner Trevor Macy.
The duo pulled off what was long considered impossible with 2017’s Gerald’s Game, turning a novel set primarily in the mind and memories of a woman handcuffed to a bed next to her husband’s corpse into a jolting, emotionally wrenching cinematic experience. And it nailed the book’s themes of trauma and survival while also delivering one of the all-time squirm-in-your-seat gross-out scenes with its infamous “degloving” scene. A perfect Kingian cocktail.
The duo is back at with Doctor Sleep, taking on another “impossible” adaptation in stride. An adaptation of King’s 2013 sequel to The Shining that also serves as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 film adaptation of The Shining, Doctor Sleep demanded that Flanagan and Macy thread a very small, very complicated needle to tie King and Kubrick’s infamously different visions together.
But they also couldn’t let the battling visions of the Overlook overtake the story of King’s sequel, which follows a grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) through his recovery from addiction after following in his father’s volatile footsteps and sends him on a terrifying new adventure with a young girl named Abra (Kyleigh Curran), who “shines” more powerfully than Danny ever did and winds up in the sights of a soul-sucking band of vampiric nomads called the True Knot.
Even if you put the film’s legacy aside, Doctor Sleep is a beast of a book to adapt, packed with supporting characters, B-plots, and trips down memory lane to the horrific events of The Shining. That meant Flanagan and Macy had to do a lot of cutting and a lot of tweaking to King’s original material, and book fans might have been surprised to see just how many bold strokes they took in their mission to bring King and Kubrick’s worlds together.
But just because there were lots of changes, doesn’t mean any of them were taken lightly. I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, the supposedly haunted hotel where Stephen King had a nightmare that inspired The Shining and penned the book in the famed Room 217. While I was there, I spoke with Flanagan and Macy, and given the perfect setting for a proper nerd-out, I took the opportunity to break down the biggest Doctor Sleep book-to-movie differences, and how they balanced King and Kubrick’s vision to make their movie.