The Shining (1980) and The Shining (1997)

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terrifying

The two adaptations that have been made so far of Stephen King’s The Shining are a pretty stellar example of what I mean when I say that when King adapts his own work, it just doesn’t make for a good film. Stanley Kubrick re-worked King’s story into his own by adapting the screenplay himself for his 1980 film, and then a pissed-off King (who never thought Kubrick got it right), wrote his own adaptation for the Mick Garris-Directed TV miniseries of The Shining, which aired in 1997. 

While I think Garris and King’s adaptation is pretty terrible, I understand why they did it: they both felt that Kubrick made his own version of the story that was completely different from the book. Garris has a good explanation of it here. It’s an interesting story, Mick, but unfortunately almost nothing about your film was scary. The only moment I found myself gritting my teeth through was when Weber’s Jack Torrence assaulted De Mornay’s Wendy with a croquet mallet (as written in the book), and I mean BEFORE his face morphs into demon-mode — but it was still nothing close to the way I feel every single time Nicholson axes through that door to get to Wendy and Danny. NOTHING. CLOSE.

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Kubrick’s Shining is jam-packed with crazy intensity, and features some of the best, most horrifying images in the entire genre. Those long, creepy hallways that Danny speeds down in his Big Wheel; the all read bathroom; the little girls in blue dresses; the elevator that ejects a river-full of blood out of its doors; the icy desolation of the hedge maze; the woman in 237, and so many more! Not to mention the incredibly awesome paintings on Dick Halloran’s wall. I don’t even buy into any of those crazy critic/fan/whatever theories: I just think it’s  a straight-up terrifying film, all around. It’s a gorgeous piece of filmmaking that I can watch over and over and still see something new every time. It’s AMAZING.

Really, the only redeeming thing about the mini-series is Melvin Van Peebles as Halloran, who totally holds his own, even against Scatman Crothers. Unfortunately, Garris and King’s Shining sticks to the book almost too closely (thus its 4 and 1/2 running time), and really showcases things that couldn’t be translated well to the screen, like the crappily-rendered moving hedge animals. I mean, my god. They are SO laughable! And a fire hose with teeth. I wish I was making that up, but I’m not. And then, he even takes it a bit farther by sticking a super cheesy epilogue onto the book’s ending (in which Jack comes to his senses long enough to save Wendy and Danny by warning them about the boiler he’s about to explode, and in which we are treated to Dick, Wendy, and Danny being all buddy-buddy at another resort) where we see Danny’s High School graduation, and his father’s GHOST NODDING IN APPROVAL. HIS GHOST. I. What.

Keep in mind, I haven’t actually watched the mini-series since it aired in 1997, but I am still scarred (and enraged) by that goddamn ending. Also, there’s this:

I’m sorry, Steven Weber, but you are an awful Jack, oops, I mean, John Torrance.

Not that I even have to say it: but my final recommendation is that you watch Kubrick’s The Shining forever and ever, and just forget that the mini-series even exists.

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