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'Utterly terrifying': 'Shining' sequel melds King and Kubrick

Andrew Marszal

Agence France-Presse

West Hollywood, United States  /  Fri, June 14, 2019  /  03:04 pm
'Utterly terrifying': 'Shining' sequel melds King and Kubrick

US best-selling author Stephen King talks during a press conference in New York on February 9, 2009. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Almost 40 years on from The Shining, the blood-soaked corridors of the Overlook Hotel are still the stuff of nightmares for generations of horror fans.

Stanley Kubrick's psychological masterpiece, adapted from the Stephen King novel, made creepy twins and axe-murdering maniacs -- who can forget Jack Nicholson's chilling line, "Here's Johnny!" -- synonymous with the genre.

But for the director tasked with bringing the book's 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep to the big screen, checking back into the Overlook was scary for a different reason.

King famously hated Kubrick's film adaptation of The Shining -- in particular the liberties it took with his plot and protagonists -- leaving Mike Flanagan with the unenviable task of marrying the visions of the two creative giants.

"That was utterly terrifying," Flanagan said about seeking King's blessing, calling it the "most nerve-wracking" moment of his career.

"The hope going in was that there was some universe in which Stephen King and the Stanley Kubrick estate could both love this movie," he told journalists at a Los Angeles screening of the trailer for the film, due out in late October.

"Threading that needle has been the source of every ulcer we've had over the last two years."

The brief teaser contained several images eerily familiar from Kubrick's movie, including a young Danny Torrance peddling his tricycle down the haunted hotel's foreboding hallways, and the word "Redrum" -- "Murder" spelled backwards -- hewn into a wall.

Producer Trevor Macy said each iconic scene had been reshot in painstaking detail, although the famous moment -- an elevator door opens to unleash roaring cascades of blood -- was lifted directly from Kubrick's footage.

Most hauntingly, the trailer ends with Ewan McGregor, who plays an adult Dan four decades on, peering through the gaping hole in an axe-chopped door, calling back to that most signature of Nicholson's scenes.

Read also: Legendary director Kubrick honoured with London show

Suffocating tensions

The filmmakers said they had ultimately secured King's blessing to make a faithful version of his sequel that could still exist in Kubrick's "cinematic universe".

But the project was made more difficult because King, in writing the sequel, "actively and intentionally ignored everything Kubrick had changed," Flanagan explained -- including penning parts for characters killed off in the film.

One new character is Abra, a young girl who possesses an even stronger version of Dan's magical "shining" powers.

The filmmakers viewed 900 girls before selecting American actress Kyliegh Curran for her first major role, passing over more experienced child stars.

Abra and Dan team up to take on a gang of supernatural villains who feast on those with "shining" powers -- in the process forcing Dan to confront inner demons originating from his stay at the Overlook a lifetime earlier.

The film, like its predecessor, aims to frighten viewers by building tension and a "suffocating atmosphere" rather than simply startling them with "jump-scares," said Flanagan.

"We used a lot of the lessons that Kubrick taught us about how to do a psychological thriller," he said, while adding the movie was "ferociously protective" of King's text.

Macy added: "In a very real sense, we're standing on the shoulders of literary and cinematic giants."

Doctor Sleep will be released globally from October 30.