Warner Bros. is still open to the idea of making a prequel film to Stephen King’s classic haunted-hotel novel The Shining. Current buzz indicates that if the project moves ahead, The Walking Dead’s recently fired showrunner Glen Mazzara may write the script. This is, of course, dependent upon whether Warner Bros. actually owns the rights to make a prequel to The Shining – something author Stephen King says is not necessarily the case.
In our opinion, this is a bad idea – but there is at least a blueprint, provided by King himself, for how a Shining prequel might play out.
King’s original version of the novel featured a prologue segment entitled "Before the Play." This series of flashbacks into the Overlook Hotel’s dark history spans decades, highlighting that the resort, nestled at the “roof of America,” was ground zero for dark forces from the very moment construction started – long before Delbert Grady killed his wife and twin daughters on the grounds with an ax, and certainly prior to the Torrance family’s arrival in the book.
For whatever reason, “Before the Play” was excised from the novel (as was an epilogue entitled “After the Play” – King says he no longer even has a copy of that…) but you can read it for yourself below, courtesy of the Tumblr nowthatithinkofit.
We highly recommend it, because it will not only shed light on the Overlook’s history (including giving you more details about the creepy image of the guy in the dog costume – something that’s also discussed briefly in the novel), but also because it really does a great job of laying the groundwork for a serious prequel film.
Broken up into five distinct tales, “Before the Play” covers the Overlook’s history from the time it was built until not long before Grady is hired to be caretaker. There’s a common theme running through four of the five tales – the hotel is clearly haunted by something dark and unpleasant, and it has the power to drive certain people mad. Anyone who stays in the Overlook seems to sleep poorly, and experiences financial ruin, nightmares, supernatural encounters and, occasionally, violent death.
If you noticed, we mentioned there’s a common theme running through four of the five vignettes – the fifth does not feature the Overlook at all, but would still be perfect for inclusion. In that story, we meet a very young Jacky Torrance as he tries to escape his abusive father. Needless to say, this would make a great bookend segment to lead into Kubrick’s film…
If Warner Bros. really does intend to go forward with this (and if the producers are talking to Mazarra, they’re at least somewhat serious about it), we hope that all involved can work out the legal issues required to use King’s cut prologue because that's the best material they're going to come up with by far. The author is not particularly thrilled with the idea of a prequel, but says he wouldn’t go out of his way to kill it if Warner Bros. can prove it actually still owns the film rights to the book and ancillary materials. We suspect lawyers and maybe judges will have to unravel that legal knot, but if they can then King has provided whatever writer the studio hires with a solid blueprint for making what could be a genuinely frightening film.