The creepy visitor that haunts Jessie during her night of terror has inspired debate amongst King fans ever since he first appeared. As her mind slips away, Jessie sees a figure in the shadows that King describes as having a "misshapen head," "white cheeks," "slumped shoulders," and, most importantly, "dangling, long-fingered hands." She begins to describe him as the "Space Cowboy," swiping the name from the Steve Miller song "The Joker." He's one of the more underrated creations in King's gallery of villains, a nerve-wracking embodiment of pure evil.
Despite the movie's veneer of realism and willingness to engage with heavier themes, Flanagan doesn't back away from the more fantastical elements. In the film, the Space Cowboy is referred to as the "Moonlight Man" and he's brought to life by Carel Struycken, the seven-foot actor who played The Giant on Twin Peaks and Lurch in the Addams Family movies. When Jessie sees him from across the room, she tries pleading with him. "I need help," she says. But the Moonlight Man only smiles, flashing her the insides of his bag which contains nothing but jewelry and human remains. (If you listen closely at the beginning of the film, you'll hear a news report on the radio reporting that a grave-robber is on the loose.)
Like in the novel, the scene raises questions about Jessie's mental state: Is she having visions? Imagining a boogey-man? Losing her mind? Flannagan's smartest choice in adapting the book was reducing the number of voices in Jessie's head, dropping side characters like her old college friend Ruth and her former psychiatrist Nora. He also has her anxieties take physical form: She's both inspired and tormented throughout the movie by a confident, brassy version of herself, which Gugino excels at, and a cruel, sneering take on Gerald, which Greenwood relishes. Together, they're like the angel and the devil on her shoulders, one preaching survival and the other tempting her to give up.