Stephen King discusses his dislike for Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING

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shining

I’m not a big fan of The Shining and in fact, (and this might get me a lot of hate) I’m not a big fan of much of Stanley Kubrick’s work at all. It’s not that he doesn’t have flair and style, he packs that in bucket loads, it’s that for me he has always missed the most important part of film making – storytelling.

And it seems, with The Shining, I’m not the only one who thinks so as Stephen King, the author of the book in which the film is based, is also not a huge fan of the movie himself. In an interview with Deadline, King revealed his thoughts on the movie and what he felt was most wrong with the film version.

The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change.

And I agree 100% with Mr King here. Although Jack Nicholson plays the role fantastically well in the movie, there is just no character development to properly explain why he is so crazy and it takes a lot away from the film becoming genuinely scary. The author went on to further share an experience he had with Kubrick before the film was made:

I talked to Stanley on the phone before he started and I remember I could feel him reaching, trying to find his way into the books, and he said, ‘Well, don’t you find that all ghost stories are optimistic, don’t you think so? Because it means that the presupposition is that if there are ghosts, there’s an afterlife, we don’t just die, we go on.’ And I said, ‘Mr. Kubrick, what about hell?’ There was a long pause at the other end and he said in a very stiff voice, I don’t believe in hell.’ And I said, ‘Well, OK, you don’t, but my feeling is that if there are ghosts, they’re as likely to be maligned as they are to be ‘come into the light.’ You remember the movie with Patrick Swayze, Ghost? There was a feeling there that ghosts are really kind of on our side, but it’s just as likely that the experience of dying has driven some of them mad.

On the set of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick lines up a shot of the famous men's restroom scene in which Grady informs Jack that he must "correct" his family.

So, it showed that before filming even started, there was already a disconnect between the two on their visions for the movie. And that is not to say that the Kubrick got everything wrong with the film, its just that he needed to give some of the craziness a little more context.

I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favorable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much.

Whiles much as I’m not a fan of the film, it certainly has a lot of love and respect in the film industry and Kubrick’s version is considered a classic, along with many of his other movies. I have a right to disagree, but that doesn’t take away from the man’s genius. What do you think of The Shining – it’s been 35 years since it was released (which is older than me) – do you think it is a film worthy of its cult status or one that has been over-hyped over the years?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: February 8, 2016

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Craig Risi

A man of many talents, but no sense how to use them. I could be discovering the cure for aids or finding ways to achieve world peace, but I’d rather be watching movies and writing here instead.

  • Nick de Bruyne

    I only watched The Shining finally really recently, around 3 years ago and I was actually really impressed with it, and thought it was marvellous. That said I haven’t read the book and maybe just don’t know what I’m missing from the storytelling.

    What about the made for TV mini-series one or whatever? I heard it was actually really good despite the little kid actor in it apparently just sucking big nuts.

    • Sandelk

      Haven;t watched any other version of it. I guess there are always problems when a person reads the book – they will inevitably be disappointed when watching the movie

    • Acornbread

      The mini-series was decent, not as creepy as Kubrick’s version but definitely more coherent. Worth watching.

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