The Shining is, obviously, a modern horror classic. Everyone knows the story in one way or another: isolation, madness, murder, ghosts, all in a grand hotel. Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my favorite films, and I recently saw the documentary Room 237, so my interest in exploring the novel was particularly piqued.
I know King did not like Kubrick’s film adaptation. (This has apparently softened in more recent years, but at the time of the film’s release he was quite angry with the iconic director for tossing his screenplay and leaving huge chunks of familial context out.) They’re actually a bit hard to compare, when all is said and done. They are two entirely different animals, the enigmatic world of the films’ Overlook Hotel and the menacing depths of the novel’s Overlook. One tells a story of grim madness with a ghost and ghoul or two amid unnerving symmetry and sumptuous cinematic detail. One tells the detailed story of a family’s very gradual descent into the dark history of an incredibly haunted place. The tone of the film is one of doom from the very beginning; the book is one of utter suspense, as bumps in the night are interrupted by the mundane tasks of everyday life. And familiar things that become unfamiliar are, in my opinion, far more terrifying.
I really enjoyed the novel. The characters are so easy to relate to in the beginning that it becomes even more sickeningly frightening to see Jack Torrance, recovering alcoholic trying to pull his family back together, truly become consumed by the spirit of the Overlook. The slow build to all the visions and voices the hotel has to offer the Torrance family creates an unforgettable atmosphere of excitement mingled with dread.
It’s an interesting study in how memories are like ghosts, haunting us and causing us to haunt one another.