There Should Be a Prequel: 'The Shining'
Every week, EW will imagine a sequel to a movie that we wish would happen — no matter how unlikely the idea really is.
In the case of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of the The Shining, the event of a movie sequel isn’t as farfetched as we might think. As announced at the beginning of the year, Stephen King has already penned a sequel to the thriller classic. The novel, titled Doctor Sleep, will follow an older Dan Torrance and hits shelves and online retailers this September.
But the written sequel delves into a drifting Danny’s encounter with another teen who shares his precognitive powers. And in traditional King fashion, it’s likely that we can expect some gloriously gory tale of youth and paranormal vision, twisted into an impossible-to-navigate psychological maze.
Hyper-active Shining fans surely have endless questions regarding Danny’s life post-Overlook Hotel hellishness. But the real mystery lies in whatever events took place in the unpublished prologue devoted readers never got to experience. King’s prologue “Before the Play” helped tie up loose ends regarding the haunting events that took place in the hotel before the arrival of the Torrance family and their nightmare of violence, alcoholism, and telepathic torment to follow. Most fans would argue that they don’t want a prequel unless it’s a King prequel. But a recent late-night re-watching of the “REDRUM” thriller got me thinking, what if it was?
Horror fanatics can hope and beg for a cinematic take on “Before the Play,” but it’s not entirely clear whether King is as enthusiastic about the option. In an exclusive interview with EW, King said “[…] there was really scary stuff in that prologue that wouldn’t make a bad movie. Am I eager to see that happen? No I am not.” And regardless of the author’s skeptical attitude towards taking the pre-Shining secrets to the silver screen, it is still unsettled as to whether Warner Bros. even holds the rights to King’s text so long after the original publication of the 1977 book. But King describes himself as “sort of a nice guy,” and is not redlighting the tentative project.
Both King and Kubrick leave multiple points of ambiguity in the book and film versions, many of which were probably never intended to have black and white answers. But it’s inevitable that the audience still wonders what drove caretaker Charles Grady to insanity, who Danny’s imaginary friend Tony really is, and what a recurring bloody elevator implies about events past. I’d like to believe that head chef Mr. Hallorann is some sort of friendly ghost in the sea of malevolent paranormal figures haunting the hotel, perhaps a firsthand witness of the Overlook Hotel during the time of Grady’s hysteria.
The famous hedge maze could be hashed out into a fascinating prequel detail. Jack gets trapped in both the physical and psychological maze of his insanity, but where did the maze originate? Maybe caretaker Grady builds it as an impulse of his own madness, similarly to Jack’s “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” all-consuming typewriter flurry. And what about the mysteries of the Gold Room? Picture a possible Michael Haneke-directed Gold Ballroom massacre.
It’s safer to argue not that there should be a prequel, but that there could be one. Prequels, sequels, side stories are typically blockbusters’ demises, as the majority of stories are always better left untouched. This is undeniably true when it comes to the classics, that exclusive category that The Shining well-deservingly fits inside. But the point to recognize is that so many prequels come from invented story lines stretching to puzzle-piece beside its sister-story (Think of the Star Wars I, II, and III, Book of Shadows — Blair Witch 2, and Prometheus, if you can call that a prequel). And, it’s frequently money as the motivating factor in formulating these supplements.
But in the case of The Shining, the luxury exists that King has already penned answers. If a new director (Michael Haneke? Ti West? Thoughts?) and screenwriter (rumored to be The Walking Dead’s Glen Mazzara) were to really honor the key originals in “Before the Play,” already invented and chronologically isolated from the events that open The Shining novel, it’s possible for the success of The Shining to be left unpolluted.
Before all purists scoff at the option, it’s important to remember that screenwriters like a challenge, and moviegoers will buy a ticket for even the most doubted trailers. Consider the positives. If Stephen King isn’t completely opposed, should we be? And occasionally an unexpected prequel megahit is born, such as Bates Motel. Could a prequel function as another Shining television mini-series? At the end of the day, whether the classic is cinematically resuscitated or not, it is a reassuring notion for all King super-fans to see that 36 years later, mulling over The Shining is still alive.
What do you think? Can we shelf our cynicism and make room for a prequel to this classic?