Book to Film: The Shining

The Shining

"A masterpiece of modern horror"

Book Release:  1977   /    Movie Release:  1980

(Unlike other reviews on the site, the 'From Book to Movies' feature has to reveal spoilers to make sense.)

Read the Book Review Here

   Introduction / Brief Movie Thoughts

The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made to date and there are several reasons why. One is that it's very character orientated. We grow to know the characters Jack, Wendy, and Danny well enough to care what happens to them, and also to live what they're experiencing. While Shelley is generally annoying, Danny is cute and well acted, and Jack is demented enough to steal every scene he's in.

At his finest, his depiction of a stressed ex-alcoholic descending rapidly into madness is legendary. The showdown scenes with Jack finally snaps were well-orchestrated. His nutty state of mind was shown from the start, but he also had a humorous side (demented but still there) that came through. Duvall exhibits sheer terror to perfection; her mousy overly submissive nature may get on ones' nerves but this personality helps impel the movie along. The contrast between the strong and neurotic hubby and the uncertain, reluctant wife creates a deeper impact when the final showdown begins. She was my least favorite character, however, as I said before she tended to get on the nerves. Danny was a very effective little actor and knew how to be freaky when needed. The "tony in the mouth" was eerie.

Another key factor was the total and utter isolation once the storm really hit. Cut off, eventually, from any outside help. And before this, cut off from any other human companionship whatsoever. A lot of movies explore the theme of cabin fever but it isn't always achieved like this. I wonder how the Wilderness family does it? I can easily see Skip going nuts and slaughtering his wife and the two annoying, unrealistic kids Jenny and Toby with an axe!

Yet another excellent aspect was the scenery. Even the name - The Overlook - simple yet powerful - invokes a certain feeling. Not many of the rooms are shown in detail; the could have been done to either not confuse the audience with too much at once, or it could have been done to make the isolation even more effective, causing the hotel itself and the surroundings to seem more closed in, smaller, tighter spaces.

For the hotel itself the inside shots were great, but the outside shots were just as effective. Such an ordinary looking location that somehow managed to transmit vibrations of gloom. The addition of the outside maze was nonesuch; I loved the scene where Jack was looking through the maze figurine and then it shot to where Danny and Wendy were actually playing in it. The maze was used to wrap up to a different type of ending. Instead of having the movie full of music every step of the way we have an eerie sense of silence; this, to me, is more frightening. When music is played it's perfect. Simple yet chilling.

The concept of having the shining as a unique, psychic like gift was neat; I loved that plot sideline. Danny certainly wasn't your everyday kid. This story doesn't stick strongly to Kings book and comes out all the better for it; this is Kubricks version and I fell in love with it. So many people had read the book and knew what happened in it; seeing it in a different perspective on screen was refreshing. Two different versions that were still so much the same.

There are some scenes that really stick out as galvanizing, but throughout the entire picture we're filled with a sense of dread and impending doom. The directing was superb; everything had that cold, institutional feel. Nothing was corny or comedic about THIS one. Since the movie didn't rely on gore or affects it will not age.

 All of this movie is a piece of art rather than simply fiction, beautifully unleashing a tragic and brutal story of a powerful, cryptic haunting that had always been there but was just waiting to be let out.

   Biggest Differences

In the book Jack's character went insane slowly, while in the movie he was clearly unbalanced from the start. This was something the author greatly disliked and put down regarding the movie.

The animal maze hedge scene in the book was very creepy and well-done, helping ramp up the atmosphere. It was left out of the Kubrick movie.

Shelley Duvall played a very submissive character, but Wendy had more backbone in the book.

In the book Danny can actually see his friend "Tony", who gets closer to him as the story progresses - but in the movie he is always invisible

"All work and no play" was made for the movie, but is not in the book. "Here's Johnny!" was also a coined phrase in the movie alone.

The movie had Jack only sober for five months but in the book it's been 14.

An elevator comes alive in the book but only spews blood in the movie.

In the movie Jack is an axe-wielding maniac but in the book he makes do with a rogue mallet.

The ending of the book shows a slightly sweeter Jack who breaks through for Danny, but in the movie he stays insane the whole ride once its set in.

In the book the hotel blows and takes up a mind of its own (with thoughts and character) but in the movie it does not.

   Who is the Big Winner?

It's a close call but I actually prefer the movie a little more. I loved Kubrick's slick style and the ending of the movie. The book was creepier in many ways, but the ending was a let-down for me since it incorporated giving hotel a cheesy, tantrum-throwing personality.

   Movie Trailer

   Movie Poster