Books and their Movies: The Shining by Stephen King

One of my all-time favorite things to do is read a book and compare it to its movie adaptation. Lately, it feels like many books being published are also being picked up for movies or tv series. I could rattle off a list of all the great books made into television or movie adaptations that came out this year.

With that in mind, I wanted to bring a new series to the blog where I compare and contrast the movie to its book. This series will discuss both the book and its subsequent movie or tv show. I won’t be bashing one or the other and I won’t be yelling “the book was better” from the rooftops. It will be spoiler-heavy, so keep that in mind when reading these essays. I just always find it fun to see how Hollywood breaks down a book and what makes it to the big screen.

We all know that the book is always better than the movie, but there are some movies that have been adapted that stand on their own. The first book and movie we’ll be discussing is The Shining by Stephen King.

I read The Shining for the first time this fall. I wanted to finally dive into Stephen King’s horror work and with Doctor Sleep coming out in theaters, I wanted to read this quintessential Stephen King and then watch its movie. Luckily, I had the opportunity to watch the movie on a flight I recently took and couldn’t believe what Stanley Kubrick kept and left out. There were some positive moments for me, but a lot of disappointing ones as well.

Here’s the synopsis of the book

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Here’s the trailer for The Shining

::SPOILER ALERT::

I think The Shining movie gets a lot of flack around how little it actually adapts from the book. When watching the movie, it definitely felt more like Stanley Kubrick took the horror components of the book and extenuated them.

However, I don’t discount Stanley Kubrick and his way to build atmosphere. The movie builds suspense through high pitch noises and sudden cuts displaying horrific scenes. Despite it not being an exact adaptation of the book, the movie itself was pretty gruesome and scary at points. It definitely filled the quota of suspenseful thriller and if you watch the movie without reading the book, then you’ll see this as one of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces with his camera usage and editing skills.

I feel like if you don’t read the book before you watch the movie you’re going to be super lost. I think the one thing Stanley Kubrick left out that was vital to the story was that the Overlook Hotel feeds off shining energy. It wasn’t clear that Danny was the target here for his exceptional shining powers and I feel like if that was established more, then you would understand why the hotel went after Jack’s mind.

I can just imagine the folks watching this movie when it came out and being completely enamored by Stanley Kubrick’s work. The wall of blood, the completely naked woman, the appearance of ghosts and the edited cut scenes were all probably new and innovative back in the day. The lack of motive probably also lent to the scariness of this movie because watching Jack go from average human to completely mental is very apparent. I just wish it was explained.

But I did appreciate that Kubrick kept essential characters like Dick Halloran (who explains the shining to Danny) and Tony, Danny’s spirit friend. I was worried Dick would play a super small role, but I think Stanley Kubrick understood his importance. Not only in explaining the shining, but also being the person who eventually saves Wendy and Danny from Jack.

I wasn’t a fan of how Danny described Tony as a kid that lives in his mouth and accesses Danny’s finger and voice when he speaks. The book describes him as a voice Danny hears and Danny relays what he says to his parents. I think that I liked the book’s concept of this better because it made it more obvious that Tony is broadcasting directly into Danny’s brain. However, I can see how that can be difficult to display on screen especially when Danny is having conversations with Tony.

I loved how Wendy is portrayed in the movie as well. At first, she seems like a sheepish housewife, but when it came to protecting her son, she changed completely using weapons against her own husband. It was also really clear that Wendy struggled with loving her husband and protecting her son. Although, I felt Wendy was a much stronger character in the book, I really appreciated how strong she was on screen.

I also liked how Stanley Kubrick used a hedge maze instead of animal topiaries. To be honest, I think this was because they didn’t have the technology back then to make CGI topiaries come to life. The maze is also more menacing and the chase scene really built suspense.

Overall, I think both the movie and the book are great but for their separate reasons. The book because of its ability to really get into the mindset of all the characters. The movie because of its ability to artfully display horror in this secluded hotel and how that affects the family living within its walls.

What did you think? Did you like the movie or the book better?

8 thoughts on “Books and their Movies: The Shining by Stephen King

    1. I agree! His writing can definitely translate quickly to a movie or a tv series. But I do love that The Shining puts more detail into their lives and their mental states. It brings a deeper level to the characters.

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  1. Really interesting – comparing books and movies is my hobby too, and I’ll be looking at The Shining, which I recently re-watched just after re-reading. What I really didn’t like was the ending, very different. I wish Halloran wasn’t killed off! And also think how the tension could have been increased by having the untended boiler and explosion, like in the book.

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    1. Oh I hated that caveat too but I didn’t want to mention it because it’s such a huge spoiler! Yes and I also agree that the boiler should have been a big piece especially since it was the hotel’s weak spot

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      1. Sorry for putting a spoiler on your comments section! But I really had to mention it, I was pretty upset because it had been so long since I watched the movie and I was thinking it was more like the book than I remembered!

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  2. This is so interesting! With Doctor Sleep coming out, I also wanted to finally read The Shining & Doctor Sleep because it looks so interesting, but I was always confused with the trailer for Doctor Sleep because it discusses the shining energy/powers as kind of the main focal point, and yet, almost none of that is in The Shining movie. I couldn’t understand how the two related, so I’m even more excited now to learn that The Shining book actually has a lot more info in it!

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    1. Yes! This is one of the reasons why I didn’t like the shining. There’s the one scene with Dick and Danny that explains what Danny has, but it doesn’t dive into it or how it plays into the horrors happening in the hotel. Doctor Sleep goes into it much deeper bringing it out as a big component of the story, which I really liked. Hope you enjoy both!

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