Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel The Shining has been confounding for the three decades since its release to mostly lukewarm reviews and sluggish box office. The movie turned off both of its target audiences – Kubrick fans felt that the ghost story was a squandering of the master filmmaker’s talents while King’s fans and fans of the best-selling novel (and famously, the author himself) were distraught by many of the wholesale changes Kubrick made to the story.
Personally, as one of those fans of the novel, I’ve always felt it to be a fascinating failure, a beautifully filmed and interestingly acted movie, though unlike so many others, I think that Jack Nicholson was misused in the film. Not that he wasn’t wonderfully over-the-top in the latter scenes, but the handyman’s breakdown was supposed to be gradual and Nicholson’s Jack Torrance was obviously crazed from the get go. Also, the final shot was rather ridiculous.
However, even from the slight disappointment I felt from the movie, it was obviously a dense, intriguing story with some truly significant scares.
In the years since the video revolution, The Shining has become thought of as a horror classic and Nicholson’s performance a standout. While I don’t really agree with these things, for the reasons listed above and many more, I still find the movie fascinating and do watch it periodically. As a straightforward narrative telling of the novel, the 1999 mini-series is much better, if much more pedestrian in its filming. However Kubrick’s Shining has an undeniable hallucinogenic hold, drawing the viewer deeper with lots of little touches and clues.