Stephen King's Biggest Problem With Stanley Kubrick's Version Of The Shining

There are two nearly undeniable truths about Stanley Kubrick's version of Stephen King’s The Shining. Truth number one is that The Shining is an absolutely terrifying horror movie. One of the classics of the genre. The second truth is that Stephen King hates that movie with the fiery passion of 1,000 burning suns. King has made no secret that while many fans love that movie, he really thinks Kubrick missed everything great about his story. And this one thing, in particular.

Stephen King’s magnum opus The Dark Tower appears to be on a slow train toward actually becoming a reality, and thanks to this renewed interested in King’s work, Deadline has published an older interview with the author that never saw the light of day when it was originally conducted. In the interview they discuss the numerous books that King has seen turned into films and in doing so he opens up about exactly what his problem was with Kubrick's vision.

The character of Jack Torrance has no arc in that movie. Absolutely no arc at all. When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier. In the book, he’s a guy who’s struggling with his sanity and finally loses it. To me, that’s a tragedy. In the movie, there’s no tragedy because there’s no real change.

King does recognize that, as a visual spectacle, the movie has some amazing aspects to it, but he calls it a "big beautiful Cadillac with no engine." In this case, the engine is that lack of character arc. In the film, Jack Torrance is not a sympathetic character. As King says, he’s already crazy and he only goes crazier. In King’s novel, one actually feels bad watching Jack go crazy because they know he’s ultimately a good man. The reader fears what will happen to Jack, as well as his family. In Kubrick’s The Shining, Jack Torrance is essentially Jason Voorhees, and the only question is whether his family will get out alive.

While Stephen King is one of the film’s detractors, many fans put The Shining among Stanley Kubrick’s great works. It is a visually stunning and legitimately scary work of fiction. Taken by itself, without comparing it to it’s source, there’s little you can say is actually wrong with the movie that Kubrick made. Although, if there’s any single person who would have the most trouble ignoring the source material, it’s Stephen King, and we suppose we can give him a pass on that.

What do you think? Is The Shining a great horror movie or a terrible adaptation? Or is it both at the same time? Let us know your thoughts below.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.