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Stephen KingFilm Appearance

The Shining

23 May, 1980

Stanley Kubrick adapts King’s The Shining into a feature film starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall as young parents who move with their young son to a large abandoned hotel to be caretakers for the winter off season. The film grossed $44.4 million after being filmed for $19 million. The famous line proclaimed by Jack Torrence as he chops down a bathroom door, “Here’s Johnny!” was improved by Nicholson on the spot, originally being inspired by the introduction of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. King was disappointed with Kubrick’s decision not to film at the Stanley Hotel and did not like the adaptation, saying that his novel focused on main problems such as the disintegration of a family and the dangers of alcoholism, which, he believes, Kubrick completely ignored.

Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fall flat. Not that religion has to be involved in horror, but a visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: because he couldn’t believe, he couldn’t make the film believable to others. What’s basically wrong with Kubrick’s version of The Shining is that it’s a film by a man who thinks too much and feels too little; and that’s why, for all its virtuoso effects, it never gets you by the throat and hangs on the way real horror should.

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