Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is seen as a horror classic and a masterpiece of film, but it’s not loved by everyone. In fact, the novel’s author is one of its biggest critics.
Stephen King attacked Kubrick’s vision for lacking the underlying soul of his film and that Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance is already exaggerated before he even gets to the Overlook. King’s disdain for Kubrick’s Shining adaptation reached such heights that he eventually went about putting his own version together as a miniseries for ABC that would stay faithful to his beloved source material. However, when King had to acquire The Shining’s film rights from Kubrick, it came with the contingency that King would quit slandering Kubrick’s film.
Stephen King’s The Shining is one of the author’s most popular novels and had earned the writer plenty of acclaim before anyone had turned it into a movie. King tells a melancholy, frightening story as the Torrance family gets torn apart. While the broader strokes of King’s novel and Kubrick’s film are the same, there are many differences that make it easy to get confused. King’s 1997 miniseries, directed by Mick Garris, aimed to definitively set the record straight on The Shining canon.
The other most egregious change is that Stephen King restores the original ending of his novel where the Overlook’s boiler explodes, taking the hotel with it, however King can’t help himself and he also adds a cringe-worthy epilogue. Not only does this tag show that there are plans in motion to rebuild the haunted hotel, but there’s a flashforward to Danny’s high school graduation that confirms that “Tony” was actually a future version of Danny psychologically helping himself in the past. Jack Torrance also shows up as a Force Ghost, which is a lot.
The Shining miniseries is three 90-minute installments, which is considerably longer than Kubrick’s two-and-a-half hour film. King uses that extended runtime to meticulously fill in the gaps that go overlooked in Kubrick’s film, but he also goes overboard in the direction and creates an expository, languid mess. It may technically be a more accurate adaptation, but it’s also decidedly less scary. Any real sense of danger doesn’t sink in until the second installment and Jack’s not full-on crazy until the final one. The entire cast does fine work here, but none of these feel like especially iconic performances.
Whether it’s the haunting score, stunning cinematography, or the unforgettable performances delivered by Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall, there’s plenty from Kubrick’s film that still resonates strongly even today. It’s the only feature film adaptation of Stephen King that has had comprehensive documentaries made about it. There’s a reason that films like Doctor Sleep or Ready Player One were so excited to return to the universe that specifically Kubrick had created: it’s still hard to close the doors on.
More: Kubrick Made A Shorter Version Of The Shining (& It’s Better)