Stephen King: Kingdom Hospital’s Original Inspiration Explained

Kingdom Hospital is one of Stephen King’s odder television contributions and a testament to the unique nature of Lars von Trier’s Kingdom series, which served as the original inspiration for King’s series.

Stephen King is used to seeing his many novels receive adaptations, but the writer will sometimes use television and film as a medium to tell original stories or do something different. Kingdom Hospital ran for 13 episodes on ABC in 2004 and garnered a lot of attention for Stephen King’s heavy involvement with the series and how he wrote the majority of the show’s episodes. Kingdom Hospital looks at the eerie encounters at a seemingly haunted hospital, but King’s series is actually an adaptation of a Danish television series.

Related: Kingdom Hospital: Stephen King’s Short-Lived Series Was Underrated

Lars von Trier is an accomplished filmmaker, and his work on The Kingdom is regarded as some of his best. Much like King’s adaptation, Von Trier’s series is interested in the many sinister experiences that take place within an eerie hospital and the evil that manifests there. King fell in love with The Kingdom in 1997 and eventually secured the rights from Columbia Pictures by exchanging them the rights to his novella “Secret Window, Secret Garden.” King had trepidation towards adapting someone else’s material for the first time and wanted to respect The Kingdom by retaining the majority of the show’s characters as well as its surreal, dark sense of humor. King makes Kingdom Hospital its own entity, but it’s important to understand why The Kingdom resonated so much for him.

Lars von Trier’s twisted miniseries inspires Stephen King because it’s so different than everything else, especially during the 1990s, and it thoroughly defies convention. The series is effectively a haunted house story, where each episode digs deeper into a different traumatic case that’s transpired on the hospital’s grounds. Each installment chronicles a new day that’s passed. This contained environment where different eccentric personalities congregate and enable each other is exactly the kind of story that King himself creates. The disturbing events within The Kingdom embrace different extremes of the genre, like psychic powers, ghost impregnation, and vicious body horror. They’re all uniquely terrifying and feel like the kind of pained subjects that would fill the pages of King’s short stories.

However, what’s even more appealing to King about Von Trier’s Kingdom is that the series’ many characters and disparate threads operate like a soap opera, which is also a much more novelistic approach to telling a story. Each installment feels more like a chapter in a novel than an episode of television. King is used to juggling many characters at once. The Kingdom has a narrative and cast of characters that’s rather atypical for television, and has only now become more common with how the medium has evolved and the advent of what streaming allows. The unruly nature of the series, where characters sometimes disappear and don’t immediately receive closure, is part of the reason why The Kingdom, as well as Kingdom Hospital, were both cancelled.

However, it’s also why the former has become such a cult classic that’s inspired other visionaries, like King, and it still comes up in genre conversations today. After the recent news that Lars von Trier’s original Kingdom will return after more than two decades, perhaps it’s also possible to see Kingdom Hospital come back in a new context.

Next: Stephen King’s Books Made Better TV Shows Than Movies

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