That's Hollywood for you. They love you. They love your book. They buy your book. They adapt it in to a big budget feature, and in the end only really bring bits and pieces of your story to the big screen for audiences to see. In this instance it's "The Shining," an acclaimed horror film adapted by director Stanley Kubrick that author Stephen King has always hated. But then King is only one in almost a hundred authors whom absolutely detested the big screen versions of their novels. Director Kubrick's idea of planning a film that respected the source material of King's novel but not completely following the story is a bit of Hollywood rogue filmmaking that ended up angering King but simultaneously created one of the most beloved horror movies of all time. It's a film that's constantly re-emerging every decade to be examined by a new breed of movie lover who finds hidden subtext in it every time. It's a film so surreal and utterly and artistic it's taken on a new life of its own from horror buffs who have studied the architecture of the hotel, to the director's obsession with one-point perspective filmmaking, to conspiracy theorists who suspect the entire film is Kubrick's cryptic admission that he directed the fake moon landing in the sixties.
"The Shining" sets down on the Overlook Hotel, a massive hotel that's almost otherworldly in its presentation and becomes a character even before the characters set foot in it. Director Kubrick transforms the Overlook in to a monster where hope is all but abandoned and the twinges of insanity and horror can be felt within its very walls like a pulse. This is not just a hotel, but another world, and the trio of characters are sucked in to its belly. Jack Nicholson plays the erratic Jack Torrance, a novelist intent on taking the winter long job in seclusion to overcome his demons of alcoholism and work on his novel. There is of course Shelly Duvall as wife Wendy, and Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance. Within its endless corridors and empty rooms, the small family begin to find their own horrors behind the doors, and soon the hotel makes a play for Jack.
Jack's journey in to unforgiving madness and violence is merciless and utterly compelling as we watch his very psyche unfold in to a company of ghosts, specters, and the ever appealing lure of the drink. Kubrick devotes moments of pure thick silence exploring the madness of the ever amounting situation at hand and as Danny discovers his own powers of The Shining, Jack has not only succumbed to the pure darkness of the hotel, but embraced it. The rampage that ensues is one filled with Jack's own repressed darkness and utter anger expressed toward wife Wendy and son Danny. "The Shining" is committed to delving in to the dark paths these characters take and dodges much of the devices presented in the novel, including the boiler that is doomed to explode at any moment. In Kubrick's version, the Overlook is a monster that continues to feed on lost souls, and does so by providing an outlet of violence and bloodshed that Jack Torrance is more than willing to oblige.
If anything the flaws of the film presented is the casting. While Jack Nicholson's performance is utterly iconic and incomparable, he never quite looks like a man who was once sane. The moment he drives up to the Overlook, he seems to unfurl at any second, and there's not a lot of progression from sanity to pure madness. As for Shelly Duvall, her performance is severely lacking, especially in the implausibility that she's capable of fighting off Torrance. Duvall's performance is much too meek and bland to ever really remain a mainstay of the film, and her character is often so frail and paper thin, her progression in to a heroine feels implausible. As a whole, though, "The Shining" is a portrait of madness dripping with dread and pure surrealism, and Stanley Kubrick's film is a work of art that will continue to be broken down and explored for decades to come.
Love it or hate it, Stanley Kubrick is bold enough to take a critically acclaimed horror novel and make it in to a story of his own madness and genius. And while many King devotees consider this film to be a bastardization of the source material, there's no denying it's a classic, and one that continues to puzzle the most intelligent movie buffs to this day.