Stanley Kubrick produced and directed The Shining, which in the film’s credits claims to be ‘based on the novel by Stephen King’ (though it ought to be ‘inspired by the novel’ instead), co-writing the screenplay with Diane Johnson. While it was initially released to mixed reviews, it has since become known as one of the ‘scariest’ horror films of all time and is now a cult classic alongside such gems as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, Halloween, and The Exorcist.
Stephen King’s The Shining mini-series remains faithful to the novel The Shining, which isn’t one of Mr. King’s better works, in my opinion. It took me more than 10 years to finally be able to read the book a couple of years ago, and I realized before the second chapter why I had never been able to do so before – it simply is a strange story, written in a manner that is not very compelling. I have since learned that Stephen King was recovering from alcohol abuse at the time, perhaps this is why the novel’s storytelling leaves a lot (for me anyway) to be desired.
Kubrick’s adaptation is far more unsettling than King’s. (Sorry, Stephen). There are just too many scenes in the mini series that were goofball, and damn it, made-for-TV movies are never that good. I don’t find this version frightening at all, more laughable really – in fact, when I first saw it back in the late 90s, both my mother and I giggled uncontrollably at the scenes that were meant to be scary. You just can’t get away from that chilling music score in the original, that opening sequence has got to be one of the most gripping I have ever seen in a horror movie.
Stephen King was extremely upset with Stanley Kubrick’s vision of The Shining, though his stance has mellowed since 1980. He wanted certain actors to portray Jack Torrance, was not happy with Wendy’s character since she was so extra wimpy (though from the novel, I did not get that Winifred was a ‘strong’ woman; after all, she stayed with a man who had hurt their son). Really, Stephen! I only wonder what the hell this man thinks of all the other films made from his books – specially those that suck, like The Tommyknockers and Desperation and 1408 – and the casting choices for the roles of his beloved characters. Honestly! Just be damn glad you’re a published writer and anyone wants to make films from your books, even when they are decidedly awful – such as Carrie. That was not a very good book at all – it was a difficult read even though it’s not literary, the movie is much better.
Here is what Mr. King had to get out there to his Constant Readers re: Kubrick’s version (this is from his novel Doctor Sleep, which was pretty good but had a lackluster ending):
“…of course there was Stanley Kubrick’s movie which many seem to remember – for reasons I have never quite understood – as one of the scariest films they have ever seen. If you have seen the movie but not read the novel, you should note that Doctor Sleep follows the latter which is, in my opinion, the True History of the Torrance Family.”
Sounds to me like ol’ Stephen is perhaps jealous of the late Stanley Kubrick’s version, that one being so venerated when his own is not. Just check out the ratings for both movies and you’ll discover that most people feel that the 1980 movie is far superior to the 1997 mini-series. I prefer Kubrick’s version and always will no matter what rant King has to say or write about it. Sure, his version is the true one but as I mentioned above, the novel simply isn’t that good and definitely will never be one of King’s better works, for me. I’d much rather read Misery over and over, or ‘Salem’s Lot or Pet Sematary, all of which are much better reads than The Shining, which is on a par with that horrible Dolores Claiborne, a novel I have yet to even finish (I can’t get past the first few pages). Hell, I barely could get through Gerald’s Game once it started to drag in the middle of the story.
Of course, there were some who loved the mini-series but I suspect these are critics who believe that everything Stephen King touches is manna from heaven, even those of his novels that are terrible like Needful Things. But I will write more on Mr. King’s books in a later post. It is just my opinion that the mini series is not good, not at all frightening, and very much a typical made-for-TV crapfest. It’s entertaining to watch f you’ve nothing else to pop into the DVD player, but that’s about it for me. If I want to watch something really to be feared…well, I would put in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.