Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a bad adaption of Stephen King’s novel. But it’s a great movie. This is not one of those times where the book is better than the movie; they are just different.
Before I talk about what the film does well, I’ll explain why it’s a bad adaption. The main characters are unfaithfully adapted. Jack Torrance, amazingly played by Jack Nicholson (we’ll get to that later), changes too quickly- one moment a loving husband, the next descending into madness. In the book, he doesn’t give in so easily to the temptations of the hotel, we’re aware that he’s a man with demons but he fights them to the very end. Jack’s wife, Wendy Torrance (portrayed by Shelley Duvall), is arguably a worse adaption. In the book she is strong and independent, Jack’s equal, in the film she is his inferior. Wendy is arguably the novel’s strongest character, the only adult not influenced by the outlook Hotel’s horrific history. In the film she is clearly its weakest.
Yet the film itself is still an epic piece of art. While the characters differ from the novel, the lead performances are still extraordinary. Nicholson is terrifying in the role of Jack, playing it as though he is an unstoppable force when, ultimately, he is only a middle aged man with an axe and a drink problem. Danny Lloyd gives one of the strongest performances as Danny Torrance, Jack’s 8-year old son, who is essentially the hero of the film.
Kubrick’s direction is impeccable and some of his decisions to deviate from the book shine. Including the ghosts of twin girls and elevators filled with blood make the film even more disturbing than the book. Atmosphere and texture play key roles in its success: the sense of isolation and claustrophobic nature are seen as one of the primary reasons for Jack’s turn. The cinematography is exceptional, the highpoint being the scenes in which the camera follows behind Danny on his tricycle, the sound changing as he rides across the different floor surfaces of the hotel, making the scenes more intimate and the scares more horrific.
If you haven’t read “The Shining”, you will enjoy this movie. It’s a horror movie which
actually scares and also serves as a great film. If you have read the book, watch it with an
open mind; ignore the major differences and appreciate the film for being technically
perfect and beautifully artistic. But do not watch this film if you live in Park Houses ….. those hallways are too similar.
Now, almost 40 years after the original was released, a sequel to “The Shining”, “Doctor
Sleep” has been released, once again based on a King novel of the same name. This makes me question whether the film will serve as a sequel to the movie or the novel, or if director Mike Flannagan has found a way to somehow reconcile the two.