I’ve seen the movie some 25 years ago, I think, and I thought it was brilliant. The long, disturbing staring into the evil darkness that Jack Nicholson pulled off so masterfully, and the eerily seductive twin-girls chorus that keeps repeating: “Forever…and ever..and ever” still haunt me today.
But, Stephen King hated it. His main objection to the movie is the completely negative portrayal of Jack and Wendy, whereas in the novel we see a lot of good in Jack, before the evil forces of the hotel start playing with him. I thought King’s remark of Wendy’s portrayal in the movie was hilarious. “She’s just there to scream and be stupid,” he complained.
Though I have to admit the movie’s artistic value appealed to me more than the book, I enjoyed the novel for its deeper explanation and involvement with the characters. You can only get involved with the characters so much in a film. In King’s “The Shining”, in flashback, we get to see the episodes of little Jack experiencing his father’s drunken states, and how his little heart is divided between natural love for and obedience to a parent, and his disgust for the monster the alcohol turns him into. In the present, we see Jack tormented between his tender love for Danny and the burning desire to succumb to powerful forces (drink being one of them).
And there’s Wendy. The opposite of dumb, “screamy” woman Stanley Kubrick chose to present to us. It’s true she’s vulnerable and comes from a dysfunctional family, just like Jack, but her mother’s instincts make her much stronger than Jack and not without initiative.
I found another (personal) layer in the book that the author probably couldn’t have anticipated, and that made me experience it more powerfully. My dad has been very sick and somehow I managed to read Jack’s progression into darkness as a metaphor for how my father’s illness has been progressing. My understanding for Danny’s burden and fear was complete, and when the hotel took Jack in the final, sky-rocketing explosion, I felt such mixture of loss and relief that “regular” readers probably don’t. I have a feeling I’ll remember this book for a long time.
Advice to readers? “The Shining” is an exciting read, regardless of whether or not you saw the movie, so the verdict is: yes. It’s worth your time.