The Conversation: What Direction Should the 'Shining' Prequel Go?

The Conversation: What Direction Should the 'Shining' Prequel Go?

Jul 30, 2012

We've already suffered a remake of The Shining, which to its credit is the preferred version of Stephen King, author of the original novel (and screenwriter of that second take). And early next year we'll be getting a new book from King called Doctor Sleep, which continues the story of The Shining's Danny Torrance. Now there's a rumor that Warner Bros. is planning a prequel to the first film, adapted and directed by Stanley Kubrick, which will presumably focus on the haunted Overlook Hotel. 

It's a bit confusing, or will be, that there will be two very different continuities going on with the tale of the Torrance family and the Overlook, although in a way these are somewhat separate stories, kind of like how Prometheus is a prequel to Alien but can itself spawn a whole other parallel-moving series. Maybe Warner Bros. will similarly want to go with further movies specific to the hotel. Personally, I can't wait for the one where the Overlook is launched into space and turned into a prison.

Internerds are already busy pondering the potential plot of the Shining prequel, which should probably be titled "Overlook" (or, "The Bear and the Butler," if you want to go that way). Empire has a poll asking readers whose backstory should be told (Gradys, Lloyd, the witch, etc.), though right now the overwhelming response, at 63%, is for no prequel at all. Meanwhile, Videogum shares an exclusive parody script excerpt from the rumored film. 

While we wait, let's not forget the much-buzzed new documentary Room 237, which tackles theories and analyses pertaining to Kubrick's film specifically. This movie may explore things that could decrease or increase interest in an expansion of the world of The Shining. Also, I'll just put it out there, but Christian Slater is just about the same age Jack Nicholson was when he filmed the original. 


What are people saying about potential ideas for a Shining prequel? Here's the conversation heard around the Internet:

How would [a Shining prequel] work? Well, it wouldn’t. Not well, anyway. But the curiosity would probably be too much to resist, plus wouldn’t it be fun to cast young Jack? My money is on Jay Baruchel. - Dustin Rowles, Pajiba

I would forgive it all if they get someone to mimic Scatman Crothers this side of Karl Urban's Bones McCoy. - Jamie Williams, Think McFly Think

The prequel to THE SHINING has to be called SCATMAN BEGINS. - John Gholson, @gholson

Plans to film a "Shining" prequel. Will mostly deal with how Scatman Crothers got that tooth whistle. - @ChrisRRegan

I also want a Shining prequel to tell the untold story of Scatman Crothers' art collection. - @JeffMcMahon

Whether “The Shining: The College Years” or any of these other spin-offs come to pass, it’s important to keep repeating the mantra that no matter how mercenary these boardroom-initiated cash grabs are, they can’t harm the originals… only Joel Shumacher can do that. - Max Evry,

The members of the Torrance family are tormented by some pretty freaky visions, so it’s difficult to imagine how a prequel would not lessen the impact of those events – especially, as portrayed in Kubrick’s film, where it’s never clarified how much madness was the handiwork of malicious supernatural entities. Moreover, a prequel about the experiences of previous tenants at the Overlook Hotel risks recycling plot points from The Shining, with diminished returns (see: The Thing prequel). - Sandy Schaefer, Screen Rant

Was the man in a bear suit performing oral sex because of love, or was it merely a one-night indiscretion between man and man in a bear suit? Did those twin girls ever get into a crazy adventure in Rome, like the Olsen twins did? Hey, whose blood is that? These are some things we might get into. - Mark, I Watch Stuff

Besides the mental decline of Jack, the most interesting thing about The Shining is the Overlook Hotel. Delving into its history, and learning more about its past guests and caretakers, could be a really cool story to tell if done right. - Jill Pantozzi, The Mary Sue

Though I'd be interested in seeing what takes place at the Overlook Hotel, I'm a little skeptical without any source material from Stephen King. However, if Rise of the Planet of the Apes can craft a solid prequel to a classic film, then I suppose anything is possible. But Kubrick's shoes aren't going to be easy to fill. - Ethan Anderton,

The film’s focus will either be on the Torrance family before they move in as winter caretakers of the Overlook, or it will focus on the strange and violent history of the Overlook itself (which will likely be a movie that telegraphs “HEY, IT WAS GHOSTS THE WHOLE TIME!” to the audience).  Neither idea sounds particularly great, but the latter would probably beat out the former. - Travis Woods, Screen Crave

Either, way, there will have to be a good amount of invention to fill out the details provided in King’s book. The novel has a good bit of backstory, but probably not nearly enough for a whole prequel film. - Russ Fischer, Slashfilm

The events of The Shining we know are informed by what's happened at the hotel in the past, so there's perhaps scope for something about previous caretaker Grady, who chopped up his daughters with an axe. Or the film could be a broader history of the hotel, from the time it was first built (on an Indian burial ground, natch) in the 1890s. We could go back even further, and tell a story about what cursed the land itself, and end with the beginnings of the hotel's construction, hinting at all the horrors to follow. We could investigate all those masked hotel guest ghosts. - Owen Williams, Empire

SHINING PREQUEL SPOILER ALERT: He kills his twin daughters. With an axe. - @Doug_Tilley

Due to the very unclear nature of the ending of The Shining, a true prequel would be hard to identify to begin with. Couldn't you argue that a prequel to The Shining could just actually be the events of The Shining, as per the photograph of Jack Torrance at the hotel circa 1921 (sixty years before his actual visit)? Would a prequel take a look at the origins of the shining power, maybe from the point of view of a younger Hallorann and his gifted grandmother? Or maybe we're in for another route: a wacky romp through the Undead Bartender Academy with Lloyd, or a heartwarming family film about the pre-Shining Torrance clan. Come to think of it, this universe has a whole lot of fertile ground. - Michael Arbeiter,

I'd like the prequel to THE SHINING to be about the life of Lloyd the bartender. - @BrandonBrownNYC

If you want to milk The Shining, create a mini-series in which the main characters are cool-sexy-evil ghosts in the same sense that the vampires in True Blood are cool-sexy-evil. Each new episode would be about these long-dead phantoms -- two hot girls and two hot guys, say, who come from different periods (the 1890s, the '20s, the '40s) and have been haunting the Overlook for decades and getting into all kinds of dark, foul stuff, but mainly into the heads of various guests who stay at the Overlook, as well as various maids and caretakers (including Delbert Grady) and administrators who work there, and making them act out their worst, darkest impulses. Or something like that. - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere

Of course, should it come to fruition, it's possible that a new Shining prequel could also tie into King's own previously announced sequel Dr. Sleep, with all its inclusion of vampire pirates and other things that seem like a blatant appeal to have it optioned for a movie before King even finishes writing it. And then today would be the day that The Shining suddenly turned into a trilogy, like the storytelling equivalent of just typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over. - Sean O'Neal, A.V. Club


Twitter Poll: Are you more interested in Warner Bros.' movie prequel or Stephen King's novel sequel?

Novel. King's rediscovered his creative juices and there's serious potential for a middle-aged alcoholic psychic euthanasia-er - @TheTrueBrendanF

King's sequel. Perhaps it's time for the public to focus on a book + the literary foundation of this popular story takes lead. - @nixskits2

I'm more interested in neither project coming to fruition. - @mousterpiece

No. That is all. - @BernardoVillela

How about Scatman as a kid? - @DocSoupMan


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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