“I just read the book, which meant it was time to revisit the movie. The book wasn’t my favorite King (that’s between The Green Mile or the recently read by me Pet Sematary), but it was still pretty solid. That said, I can totally understand why King was so upset with Kubrick’s interpretation.
Now let’s be real, Stanley Kubrick is the man, and I am not questioning his abilities as a filmmaker by any means. Conversely while King is the king of the page, his screen writing hasn’t been as strong. I knew there was a tension there, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I figured out what was so wrong with the film. Rewatching confirmed my suspicions. Turns out, I was right.
The main disparity is the in the characterization of Jack Torrence. Actually, let’s take a step back. If I were to ask you who the villain of The Shining is, what would you respond? If you’re just going off the movie, you’d quickly say Jack. If you were going off the book, you’d probably respond The Overlook Hotel itself. See in the movie, Jack just goes kinda crazy from early on, and while there are some things going bump in the night around the hotel, he’s the main danger. In the book, he has a whole story and struggle. There’s an emphasis on his fight with alcoholism and a diminishing will to maintain his strength as his mind and faculties are being taken over. We read that whole story play out on the page, but it’s not there at all on screen.
And that’s one of the things that makes King so great. He writes such incredible and complex stories with tangible and three dimensional characters. The horror is secondary. I don’t know how far I was into Pet Sematary when I noticed that I was so absorbed in the lives of the family in the center of it, I forgot scary supernatural things were gonna happen, and I almost didn’t want them to. Okay let’s be real, I totally wanted them to, but the point is even without that, it would have still been a pretty cool story.
Jack’s not the only one sold short. Our young Danny is just your typical scared child, who happens to have an imaginary friend. That friend isn’t his protection or his connection to the darkness of the hotel. We don’ see that the child is wise beyond his years and intune with a world few know about. It gets glossed over pretty quickly.
That said, yes the film is pretty dang scary. It’s just scary for all the wrong reasons, with all the wrong focus. Would I still be feeling this way without having read the book? Honestly, I had been kinda bored with my previous viewings. Now I just know that I’m justified. When it comes to Kubrick, I’ll stick to Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. I’ll stay with Mr King when I want my horror fix.”