The Shining: Kubrick vs. King

‘The Dark Tower’ looks like it’s going to be one of Stephen King’s less faithful movie adaptations. Mike Calabro takes a look at the two vastly different versions of ‘The Shining’ to explain why that might not necessarily be a bad thing.


1980 saw the release of one of the greatest horror movies ever made from a master of modern cinema: Stanley Kubrick. ‘The Shining’ shocked audiences everywhere with its psychological terror, subtle scares and masterful performances from stars Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. The film is an undisputed classic, and it’s definitely one of the best Stephen King film adaptations, but there’s one important person who’s definitely not a fan: Stephen King. ‘The Shining’ was a deeply personal book for King, and he’s always hated Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Shining’ film - so much so that the man himself decided to make his own. Let’s go in-depth on Kubrick vs. King.


‘The Shining’ mini series in 1997 was Stephen King’s baby from top to bottom. It’s as close to an adaptation of ‘The Shining’ book as you could possibly get, but it pales in comparison to the Kubrick ‘Shining.’ The Stephen King ‘Shining’ miniseries was made for TV and it definitely shows. The budget is tiny, the horror is toned down, and the quality just isn’t there compared to Kubrick’s. 1997’s Jack Torrance character is played by sitcom star Steven Weber, who tries his best but can’t touch the legendary insanity of Jack Nicholson, and the rest of the cast isn’t much better.


The effects in ‘The Shining’ TV version are more ambitious than Kubrick’s film, but director Mick Garris just couldn’t pull them off. A lot of the subplots and themes that gave such depth to ‘The Shining’ novel only bog down a way-too-long miniseries. ‘The Shining’ series is more accurate to the book, but that doesn’t make it one of the good Stephen King movies. Film and literature are extremely different mediums, and what works for one often doesn’t work for the other.