A new adaptation of ‘Firestarter’ and more ‘Doctor Sleep’ news ensures that audiences will get (re-)acquainted with some formidable female characters.
The King of Horror continues to dominate Hollywood. Hearing multiple Stephen King-related announcements in a single week is not a rarity these days. However, whether it’s news about films and series being fast-tracked through the studio system or key updates about ongoing projects, this trend of onscreen King translations deserves love. His works are a goldmine of fascinating allegories that tap into our fears in order to empower us, with both heroes and villains each having their moment in the spotlight.
Variety shared the news that Rebecca Ferguson has joined Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep, a movie based on the sequel to King’s book “The Shining.” Director Mike Flanagan later confirmed via Twitter that Ferguson will play the film’s main villain, Rose the Hat — a semi-immortal leader of a dangerous killer cult.
Rose 🎩 https://t.co/7aPes36D9E
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) June 28, 2018
Doctor Sleep centers on a grown-up Danny Torrance as he reacquaints himself with the “shining” powers that plagued his youth; that is, his telepathy and clairvoyance. As Danny learns to embrace these abilities as gifts, he unexpectedly connects with Abra Stone, a young girl who can also “shine.” However, she is in danger of having her psychic essence absorbed by a group of quasi-demonic murderers led by Rose the Hat, and Danny must protect Abra at all costs.
Best known for her roles in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Greatest Showman, Ferguson happens to be impeccable at portraying ethereal, distanced ice queens, and her role as Doctor Sleep’s antagonist truly feels heaven-sent. With her vicious contempt for humankind as well as her status as a cold-blooded hunter and killer of children, Rose is a character unlike any other that Ferguson has portrayed in the past.
Meanwhile, Variety has also confirmed that yet another King novel will be made into a film. A new version of Firestarter is currently in the works, with Fatih Akin (In the Fade) slated to direct from a screenplay by Scott Teems (That Evening Sun).
In Firestarter, superpowered father-daughter duo Andy and Charlie McGee are on the run from a government organization known as The Shop. While in college, Andy had participated in a Shop-run drug experiment that left him and his future wife, Victoria, imbued with limited telepathic abilities. Despite the fact that Andy himself can never overuse his own powers without suffering dire physical and mental ramifications, he and Victoria have a daughter who develops an ability to control fire. Now, the Shop are on the hunt for Charlie, looking to weaponize the child’s pyrokinesis.
Back in 1984, King’s “Firestarter” was made into a film starring young Drew Barrymore, and it was horrendously received by both critics and the author himself. According to King, “Firestarter is one of the worst [adaptations] of the bunch, even though in terms of story it’s very close to the original. But it’s flavorless; it’s like cafeteria mashed potatoes.” Still, a sequel in the form of a miniseries titled Firestarter: Rekindled was made by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2002.
“Firestarter” is ripe for a reimagining, not least of all because it features a female protagonist who is very reminiscent of a certain popular modern-day heroine from Stranger Things (although given the fact that the hit Netflix series is actually inspired by King, this probably should be the other way around). Firestarter also fits right in among any superhero property made in the last 10 years, and there’s no better time than the present to not only indulge in the IP, but also keep up a trend of empowered young girls.
With women as their focal point, these King-related announcements already feel particularly promising. Horror is a fantastic avenue for women’s empowerment. The final girl trope is a good example of this, wherein girls are able to reclaim their power and survive horrific events despite the seemingly insurmountable loss and trauma involved. We look to Black Christmas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween for some classic examples that demonstrate the trope. There has also been a renaissance of the final girl of late, as evidenced by more recent horror entries such as You’re Next, Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake, and Don’t Breathe.
As Jessica Chastain, who will play Beverly Marsh in the second chapter of Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of King’s mega-novel “IT,” actually expressed to IndieWire earlier this week, “She conquers the monsters or the bad guys, and she walks away at the end.”
Women are frankly few and far between in King’s works. Some of them, such as the book version of Beverly, can be conflicting as they seesaw between empowerment and marginalization. However, King has also written heroines with nerves of steel and unbelievable survival instincts. The eponymous Carrie in King’s debut novel exacts revenge on those who wronged her, reclaiming her agency in a supernatural flurry.
Trisha McFarland from “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” is another child wonder of King’s, an intelligent and resilient nine-year-old dealing with her parents’ divorce. Trisha finds herself lost in the woods and fighting to survive both the elements and her psychological torment, but she comes out the other side in the end. And similarly, Jess Burlingame in “Gerald’s Game” battles inner demons and physical extremities, albeit while confined to her bed, in order to emerge as an ultimate survivor.
But even the most antagonistic women in King’s universe deserve our attention too. You don’t need to be a final girl to be an effective and memorable character. Mother Carmody in “The Mist” and Margaret White in “Carrie” are so infuriatingly terrible in their religious fanaticism and abusive behaviors that audiences grow to despise them so viscerally. And, of course, Annie Wilkes in “Misery” serves up a healthy dose of brutality and paranoia beneath a cheery persona; she’s an iconic and awful poster child that wards us off our obsessions.
Most of King’s novels have managed to portray multifaceted yet formidable women, and this legacy deserves to continue as a new villain and heroine make their way to the big screen.