Why Stephen King Hates Kubrick’s The Shining

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a horror staple. However, the book’s author, Stephen King, openly professed his dislike for the film.

When Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was released, it became an instant success and has since solidified its place as a staple horror film and supernatural thriller. Kubrick’s eye remains unmatched, and the way he lingers on moments still evokes a sense of unease and terror in its viewers. However, while The Shining is beloved by many, one person sees it as a disservice — the original story’s author, Stephen King.

The behind-the-scenes stories of The Shining are just as enthralling as the film itself. Still, one of the biggest talking points has been why King finds Kubrick’s vision such a lackluster representation of his work. A clip from A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King laid much of the drama out as King discussed the many differences between his idea and the finished product.

According to King, the differences started even before production began. Kubrick believed that the admission of spirits implies the film has a more optimistic tone because the presence of ghosts suggests the existence of heaven. King respectfully disagreed and said, “What about Hell?” to which Kubrick replied, “I don’t believe in Hell.” To King, the existence of the Overlook Hotel’s spirits negatively affected the Torrance family, conveying the idea that the Overlook was their Hell. Instead, the film showed Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance as a vessel for these spirits to feed off of.

Jack became another focal point for King’s unhappiness. In the book, Jack was a warm and sympathetic character who had relatable flaws. These same flaws allowed him to become a puppet to the Overlook’s spirits, who only wanted his son, Danny, because of his powerful psychic abilities. In the film, Nicholson played an unsettling character who acted as if he had been awakened by entering the Overlook rather than corrupted. King later described the fundamental difference between the cold and warmth of the two creator’s visions by how they destroyed the Overlook. In King’s book, the hotel burned down where the film had the Overlook freezing

Decades later, King took the opportunity to correct some of the changes made to his book by releasing a miniseries also titled The Shining. It followed the same story beats as the film but made fundamental changes to crucial events that aligned with the novel. For example, Jack was no longer the villain, but the victim, sacrificing himself to destroy the Overlook and save Danny. The miniseries succeeded in righting the wrongs King had with Kubrick’s Shining but failed to reach the level of iconography.

While King was unhappy with the film, he wasn’t ashamed to admit that it’s visually striking. Kubrick’s eye for shots can contain a myriad of emotions before jumping to the next cut. As audiences journey through the Overlook on Danny’s Big Wheel or follow Jack as he hunts his son in the hedge maze, it builds fantastic suspense. But in the end, King felt the film lacked warmth, describing it as “a beautiful car that has no engine in it.”

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