Josh's Reviews > The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King
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Jan 01, 11

bookshelves: 2010
Read in December, 2010

Possible spoilers if you haven't read the book or seen the movie, in which case you should do so right now. This will undoubtedly end up as a comparison between the two—me being the Kubrick fan-boy that I am-so having experienced both versions would probably help understand what I'm talking about.

The Shining is probably my favorite horror movie of all time. It takes a medium based on cheap pop-out scares and uses the horror in a way that gives legitimate depth to the characters. To me, it's a prime example of how horror ought to be done. It's not a perfect movie. The characters aren't entirely believable and don't always act, um, like normal people (this seems to be a trend in Kubrick movies, though I don't love them any less for it). If I had to praise the book for any one thing, it would be how well developed the characters were in comparison to the movie. There was a lot of depth to the characters as well as—surprisingly—all of the symbolism and motifs being thrown around throughout the book. The book was also very unnerving in parts and almost certain scarier than the movie (not to brag or anything, but I'm not one to find horror movies scary). Books and written word in general leave far more up to the imagination, and I find horror is far more effective when it's psychological. The unknown is usually scarier than anything you can see and that where this book gets most of it's horror from.

So, you say, with all this praise surely I must think the book is better than the movie, right?

WRONG!!!!!

For all the awesome storytelling and its near-brilliance, The Shining horribly fails in one regard. Stephen King is a horrible writer. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Stephen King is a horrible editor. The page count of The Shining could have been cut in half without losing any important information. He fills these pages with useless explanation and almost redundant character development. I didn't know it was possible to spend too much time developing character but King did it. In the movie Jack's alcoholism is only briefly mentioned during the opening scenes, but King decides to spend 500 chapters describing how each member of the family and his career have all been affected by Jack's addiction. I suppose this is asking a lot considering King is a mainstream pop-lit author, but some subtlety would be nice. I think Hemingway's iceberg theory could have been applied here with extraordinary results. Kubrick's version was far more subtle than this, and a lot more interesting because of it (what's this, you say, a subtle horror movie!?). Everything was just executed better. Plus Jack Nicholson is absolutely amazing at portraying insanity.

Another thing, the novel starts getting downright absurd around the climax. The overall scariness of the novel took a nosedive right when the “scary” stuff started happening. For some reason the anticipation of what was going to happen was more frightening than it actually happening. Oh well.

Inexplicably King didn't like Kubrick's adaptation of the novel, but I won't judge him too harshly. It is his story after all. Kubrick made it his own, and I'd probably be pretty ticked if someone did that with my work. Just don't expect me to watch King's TV mini-series adaptation.
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Duffy Pratt This is one of the few instances where the movie is clearly better than the book, and I think that's the main reason why King didn't like it that much. Kubrick took King's book as an outline, and made it into a movie that had more to do with Kubrick than King, and was also better than the original. I think that had to be un-nerving.

I saw it on opening night, and it had a different ending. It ended with police interviewing Wendy back in town. They had been to the Hotel and hadn't found anything. No butchered cook, no Jack. Then you get the move into the picture of the ball in the 1920's with Jack in the center of the company. I'm not sure which ending I prefer.

And of course, the scariest thing in the whole movie is Wendy thumbing through the pages of Jack's book. Kubrick realizes how totally horrifying this is, so he doesn't even bother with a surprise, but instead gradually introduces Jack into the shot -- exactly the opposite of how any other director would have done it.

And on the same note, there's another great moment that got huge gasps from the audience, and is another favorite moment in the movie. Bartok's Music for Percussion and Celeste is playing in the background. I think Jack is inside throwing a tennis ball against the wall. Wendy and Danny are walking through the maze having a chat. The camera is in a very high shot as the music builds to a climax. Then on a very strong musical beat: Cut to title card: THURSDAY. And the audience screamed in shock! A perfect moment where Kubrick is saying "I could manipulate the hell out of you if I wanted, but I'm not going to go for the really cheap scare."


Josh Oh, what I would give to be able to go back and see a Kubrick movie in theater. I think I'd give an arm to go back and see the original screening of 2001. The Shining would have been pretty intense too.

I've heard of the original extended cut for the Shining but I've never actually seen it. I personally like the movie the way it ended, but I'll watch it eventually.


Duffy Pratt 2001 was one of my first mind blowing experiences. I was maybe 10 at the time, and just totally dumbfounded by the whole thing. And when you are 10, you don't feel as bad that you don't understand it, because there's a ton of stuff you don't understand, and it was just so COOL.


Josh I'm afraid I can't do that.


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