Directed by Stanley Kubrick, one of my all-time favorite directors, The Shining is one of my favorite horror movies and has even been in my sub-conscious for even longer. For many years I remember the scene of the blood pouring down from the closed elevator doors and could never place where it was from. Then one day, as I had discovered Stanley Kubrick’s films and was watching The Shining, that scene came up and I was staring open-mouthed, as I finally had my answer!
It’s hard for me to review and analyze the film on its own, now that I’ve finally read the book. Many have criticized the casting of Jack Nicholson, as he does already exude a crazy persona and smile before he even begins working at the Overlook Hotel. But he is balanced out pretty well by Shelley Duvall, whose immense sweetness and kindness is heart-wrenching to see taken for granted and even lashed at as the movie goes on. However unlike the book there isn’t much love or romance shown between Jack and Wendy; even though in the book they had come close to a divorce, in the movie it’s barely mentioned and they hardly seem like husband and wife. Danny Lloyd does pretty well as their child, although I would’ve preferred someone a few years older. The hotel itself is an amazing set, with multiple designs and stylings, both open and claustrophobic. The opening music by Wendy Carlos is mesmerizing, but from the next scene on I don’t remember there being much music, which may lend to why the film isn’t quite as scary and creepy as it could have, and should have, been. As this is a Kubrick film, he does take his time to let things slowly unravel for Jack Torrance, so that near the end we’re dreading to see what happens to the family. The ending is an interesting deviation from the book, as it shows Jack in a crazed homicidal daze right until the end. It does end the movie on a sharper note than what the book does, and I think it does work for the film. Overall this is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and out of Kubrick’s films I would rate this fairly high, maybe third or second pick.
It wasn’t until very recently that I picked up the book by Stephen King and read it all the way through. Years ago I had tried, but because of its glacial pace I stopped pretty early on. When I came back to it, I was still pretty irked due to its pacing, but I just had to remind myself this wasn’t the movie and keep reading. While I now realize there’s some good reason for the slower pace, there’s no doubt there’s a lot of background information and flashbacks that could’ve easily be trimmed down or even eliminated.
We get a lot more information about Jack’s troubles with alcohol and his temper. He’s lost his teaching job, and his friend was nice enough to get him the interview for the caretaker job at the Overlook. In the book Wendy is portrayed as a ditzy, emotional blonde. While it may make her seem more fragile and the contrast to the horrors that happen later, I can only picture Shelly Duvall and like Wendy as her. Danny is a lot younger in the book than the movie, and I’m not sure if that mattered too much or not. He doesn’t speak very much, and more time in the book is spent inside his head, relating to his gift and his thoughts about his parents. Sometimes it seems like too much, but later on when things unravel in the hotel having so much background on the family dynamic does make it far more important to the reader.
The hotel itself also receives far more detail in the book. We learn about the storied history of it and its many owners, as well as far more description of its various rooms. In the first part of the book we read about a little bit about the interaction between the hotel staff before they leave for the winter, but I would have liked to have read more about what the current staff has experienced while working there. Before leaving, the caretaker shows Jack the importance of dumping the pressure of the old boiler, usually twice a day. If that’s not a flag-waving foreshadowing, well then I don’t know. Later on Jack finds an interesting scrapbook on a shelf in the basement near the boiler, and its importance ramps up throughout the book as well.
The first few months are a joy for the Torrance family. Jack, away from his troubles, starts to write again. Wendy is happy both Jack and Danny are happy at the hotel. As time passes the weather and solitude begin to wear on them, although we read far more about the effects on Jack than Wendy or Danny. After finding a scrapbook in the basement, Jack becomes interested in the hotel’s history, including its association with organized crime and the murder that occurred at the hotel related to it.
Some of the scariest portions of the book, which never made it into the movie, was when both Jack and Danny separately heard and saw things in the garden and playground areas respectively. When Jack was working on trimming the animal-shaped hedges, he hears things moving when looking away, and then when he looks back one or more animals are in a different position. When Danny was on the playground, he began to hear things and scurries into the concrete pipe on the playground, where he then thinks he sees a shape at the far end of the pipe, slowly crawling its way towards him. Both of these are written quite well and take their time both with description and character reaction, giving us the reader plenty of time to really sink into the character’s minds and clearly imagine the same happening to ourselves.
As Jack begins to descend further into madness, he begins to build a hatred to Wendy and Danny as he thinks they’re trying to take him away from the hotel, where he feels he now belongs on a permanent basis. While in the lounge he is somehow able to get drunk off of imaginary alcohol, and begins to yield a roque mallet, swinging it around and hitting the walls as he searches for his family. In their suite he attacks Wendy, which is described in quite horrific detail. We clearly feel the pain and fear for her life, and are only grateful when Dick’s arrival distracts Jack’s focus enough for Wendy to pull herself up and escape the suite.
The approach to the climax and the resolution in the book are quite different from what happens in the movie. In the book far more detail is provided on Dick’s hurried trip back to the hotel, and the weather obstacles he faces driving both a car and a snowmobile (in the movie they use snow cats, which are far slower and tougher). When he arrives at the hotel, Dick is attacked by the hedge animals and barely makes it inside the hotel. Danny and Wendy must escape the now-lunatic Jack, and he attacks Dick and nearly kills him (when in the movie an ax kills Dick instantly). Near the end of the book and his life, there seems to still be a small part of the coherent Jack left, as when he’s close to attacking Danny he tells him to run, hurting himself and running to the elevator to get to the basement as the boiler nears its end. Fleeing from Jack and the hotel, the three of them run out of the hotel just as the boiler explodes, destroying much of the hotel and setting fire to the rest of it.
Time skips forward and Dick is working at a hotel in Maine. Wendy and Danny are also staying there for the time being, and Danny is enjoying playing outside. Wendy also seems to have a weight lifted from her shoulders, but she doesn’t apparently have much grief for what happened to her husband.
The movie adaptation will always remain one of my favorite horror films as well as Kubrick picks, even though Stephen King himself did not like it. It has a great atmosphere and takes it time to build at least some tension and suspense, even if not as much dread and horror as the book does. I’m glad I finally did read the book, and I would certainly rate it as one of my top picks for King novels (although I haven’t read that many of his works so far). Whichever medium you choose, it’s a great concept and story.