; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Guest Post: 'The Shining'

Stephen King’s The Shining is heralded as one of the greatest horror novels of all time, and it informed the script for the Stanley Kubrick film by the same name, which is typically heralded as one of the greatest horror films of all time.

Now, 36 years after the original book was released a sequel, entitled Doctor Sleep: A Novel has been slated for release in September. The new novel will reportedly follow the story of Danny Torrance as an adult. Danny Torrance was, of course, the child with telekinetic powers from the first novel. King has stated that in the new story Torrance is in his 40’s and lives in upstate New York. Torrence now works as a care provider in a hospice and uses his special powers to assist terminally ill patients die peacefully. Somewhere along the line, psychic vampires become involved.

It will be curious to see how this new iteration of the story picks up from where the last one left off. It seems on one hand like an extraordinarily risky endeavor. The original novel was so textured and complex that it didn’t lend itself to being adapted for the screen very easily. And while Kubrick’s film is praised now and is almost always featured on any “Top 10” greatest horror film list, the film was not received warmly when it was first released in 1980. Many critics panned it, and even King himself was vocal about his dissatisfaction with Kubrick’s treatment of the story. King felt that the Kubrick’s film confused the point of the whole story by underplaying the significance of the paranormal entities and focusing too narrow mindedly on the domestic tension. In King’s opinion, Kubrick’s religious skepticism made for a situation where he couldn’t convincingly relay the spiritual undertones which were, in King’s view, the very heart of the story. King felt that Kubrick placed too much emphasis on the declining mental health of the Jack Torrence character, and that Nicholson’s performance was too heavy handed, and made the character harder to sympathize with.

And some Stephen King fans even took issue with the numerous plot differences between the novel and the film, including the hedge maze animals which sprang to life in the King story, and were entirely absent from the Kubrick film; the absence of the boiler room from the film, which played a crucial role in the novel itself; and perhaps most significantly, the tonal differences in the way both the film and the novel ended. The novel ends on a more optimistic note, with the young Danny Torrance visiting with the Dick Halloran cook character (portrayed by actor Scatman Crothers in the Kubrick film.) Whereas the Kubrick films ends bleakly, with the Jack Torrence character freezing to death in the hedge maze, and a long, slow zoom of a photograph hanging on the wall, which is dated in the forties, but depicts Nicholson standing in the very front of the crowd.

King went on to direct his own 3 part miniseries adaptation of The Shining for ABC. This afforded King the opportunity to craft a cinematic vision of his story that was closer to his heart, and placed greater narrative emphasis on the supernatural presence in the hotel.

With these conflicting high profile interpretations of the film, it will be curious to see how this new installment of the stories resonates among fans.

Author Bio: Elizabeth Eckhart is a film and entertainment writer for Direct-ticket.net. She still considers the The Shining Jack Nicholson’s most iconic role, and both hopes and fears for a sequel. She lives and works in Chicago.

Doctor Sleep: A Novel

The Shining

The Shining [Blu-ray]

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