Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Shining

Over the past few weeks I've read The Shining by (obviously) Stephen King. Then over the past few nights I've sat and watched the mini-series and the Kubrick film. Here are a few of my thoughts on what succeeded, what didn't, and a few other things. Expect spoilers...

Book first, which seems reasonable considering it's the original. I know it's considered a classic, and I did enjoy reading it, but I have some niggles. The main one - and one, I have to admit, I've had with a couple of King's books - is the pacing. There is a lot of material before reaching the hotel. There were a few times when I just wished things would get a move on and get to the scary part, the part you picked up the book for in the first place.



This lead-up material is also a factor in my second niggle. Jack Torrance is deeply, deeply flawed from the start. It's obvious that he's going to turn 'bad'. Danny's visions of the future seem obvious - there's never any doubt that his father could perform the actions shown by Tony.

I can't help but think it would have better if Jack had been shown as a 'perfect' dad at the start of the book. Then, as the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel work on him, reveal his history.  Gradually show that he's been violent in the past, that he has a drinking problem, etc etc.


The mini-series was made in 1997, basically because Stephen King was never happy with the Kubrick version. The series was scripted by King, so it's reasonably faithful to the book, with a few changes made to the limitations of television - the language and violence is toned down considerably.

You'd think this would be good. It's not.

I don't want to pick on small children, but... Yeah, the casting of Danny was not great. I'd go far as to say he was rubbish - even more rubbish when I watched the Kubrick film the next day and saw the part being played brilliantly. The kid playing Tony is rubbish. Rebecca DeMornay playing Wendy isn't fantastic either. Steven Weber as Jack, on the other hand, isn't too bad. But he's no Jack Nicholson.

There's too much 'ghostly' business. Every few minutes a door closes by itself, or a chair topples over, seemingly just to remind us that the place is haunted. You know, in case we forgot. I can't remember all these bits being in the book and I don't know why they were added.

I think the biggest problem with the mini-series though is that it just isn't scary. This is unforgivable.


Finally onto the Kubrick film. It's more or less viewed as an abomination by King, but putting aside changed to the story, it's very good indeed.

Danny is better.
Tony is better realised.
Wendy is a bit of a pansy, but she's a well-acted pansy.

And Jack Nicholson is amazing. The real surprise is that he's reasonably good at playing 'sane' Jack Torrance, and his descent into madness is brilliantly done. Compare the character at the start and end of the film - the difference is amazing.

The real surprise is that some of the most memorable parts of the film were never in the book. The blood from the lift. All work and no play...

Oh, and it's actually scary.

So which do I like the best? I think I actually like the idea best. If I'd been King's editor I'd have had him shift the order of the book about to make it (in my eyes) more effective. I like Kubrick, but some things don't quite fit. He shies away from the ghosts - almost implying everything is down to Jack's cabin fever - but then some things can only be down to ghosts.

I think what I'm saying is I could do it better.

Which is stupid. So please ignore me.

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