**While I try to reveal as little as possible, a half-arsed psychoanalysis will contain spoilers – this whole post is a spoiler alert**
Well, it took me a little longer than I wanted it to – turns out reading, The Shining (TS) is a three month feat. Never able to accept defeat of any kind I have emerged triumphant, with another classic movie adaptation under my reading belt. Whether it was the spooky Halloween season or the cold weather, for some reason, TS really shit me up. When I started reading, it became a totally immersive experience. Maybe it was the awful English weather or the dark evenings looming through my windows? Maybe, it was my overactive imagination? Whatever the reason, I got a bit scurred.
Steven King’s The Shining is an absolutely fantastic book. Believe the hype. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation is one of horror’s often-sung-heroes. Believe the hype. As always, this post will compare and contrast the major themes of both mediums, hopefully giving you a bit of food for thought. It will not, however, do this:
Let us start with the most obvious one; the different representations of Jack Torrance. I feel I need to say that I of course saw the movie before I read the book, but as per I will always recommend that. This is a film blog, I am a film grad – deal with it. While these two Jacks live in the same narrative and follow similar stories, they are two different men.
I always found Jack Torrance to be cold and indifferent in the movie, if I had to place bets on someone killing their family then I would have put all my money on him. The eerie presence of Jack Nicholson plays into this with his arched eyebrows and maniacal stare, Kubrick added different dimensions to King’s creation that are just too delicious to overlook (HA).
Kubrick played on the idea of madness and not having clear direction. In the book, Jack ruined his career because he was a drunk, he also broke Danny’s arm because he was drunk and his marriage nearly ended because?…You guessed it, he was a drunk. He is a recovering alcoholic in both. Kubrick makes his alcoholism another shade of his dark character, whereas King shows it as a weakness for the hotel to exploit.
You instantly feel nervous of movie Jack. As soon as he sits down with Stuart Ullman and discusses taking on the role as the new winter caretaker, something about him seems off. He seems to be in ‘The Interview’ mode throughout the whole movie, holding something back and covering it up with what King describes as Jack’s ‘big P.R smile’ – he oozes hostility and intolerance under that smarmy set of pearly whites. I wouldn’t want to be snowed in with someone as unhinged as the movie Jack.
Book Jack on the other hand comes across as a broken man trying to regroup. We are privy to the fact he is prone to violence, but the book gives us Jack’s internal guilt process and how awful he feels about hurting others and, Danny. He is beside himself throughout the book about his persona, his career, his drinking and his future. He cares deeply for his family but he is still getting over being ‘dry’ and is trying to build himself back up from the brink of a total breakdown. He isn’t a very nice man by any means, but the details King gives about Jack’s relationship with his own father and the way his mind tortures him over the past makes him a sympathetic villain.
While movie Jack is setting us up for the inevitable, I found myself hoping beyond hope that book Jack could beat the overlook and regain control. I was willing movie Jack to take off his smiley mask and get on with the madness, but I was willing book Jack to get his family out of there.
The crux of this for me was that in the movie, Jack didn’t write anything apart from: ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ but in the book he is genuinely trying to get something written and make a positive change. In my eyes, movie Jack goes into an isolated environment with the express intent of being a lunatic.
The Overlook Hotel
The Overlook Hotel (TOH) is a character in it’s own right, just like The One Ring in The Lord of The Rings. It seems only natural to speak about TOH next, as it and Jack are linked together. There are some interesting differences between the book and the film, mainly what feelings the hotel stirs up within us and the effect it has on the characters. TOH represents mental strain in the book, whereas in the film it’s there to disorient and confuse.
A well known trope of the movie is that the architecture and the room placement in The Overlook do not make sense. In one scene a corridor may lead you into a room, but in another scene, the same corridor can lead you somewhere completely different. Let me give you an example from the documentary Room 237: When Jack goes into Ullman’s office for the first time there is a window directly behind Ullman’s desk. This is described as an ‘impossible window.’ In a previous scene, Kubrick clearly shows us there is a corridor behind his office, so it is not possible for the window to be there. The hotel is a metaphor for Jack’s madness. (For more Overlook maps click here)
While in the movie, TOH is one big contradiction and is symbolic of Jack’s madness, in the book it has a voice. It frequently speaks to Jack and Danny, it menacingly whispers ideas into the already unstable Jack’s ears. It has purpose and an agenda from beyond the grave and makes it less out of Jack’s control. Ironically in both the book, the movie and this very blog post; Jack and The Overlook are connected to each other. In a circle. In a hoop, that never ends…
I think most people agree that movie Wendy is the most annoying character in the world. The above image was found on Google, it is from ‘The 25 Most Annoying Movie Characters‘ and that is all the justification you need (they ranked her in at number 5, but she IS the queen of ‘Annoyanceville’ – a town I just made up, where Wendy Torrance resides). Maybe this is just what Kubrick wanted? He was just about sick and clever enough to make a horror movie that allows you to feel what it is like to murder Wendy. Put an axe right in her face. You do feel a bit sorry for Shelley Duvall because Kubrick literally tortured her throughout the filming process, so it’s likely the meek and anxious character traits were not entirely acted – but regardless. Movie Wendy does not get my vote.
Just as I don’t really get anything from movie Jack that suggests he even remotely enjoys his family, I don’t get anything to suggest that Wendy has an ounce of fight in her. On the other hand, book Wendy is alright. She is resourceful and is incredibly strong. Jack Torrance does manage to get his hands on her in the book, and what he does to her is unimaginable, the relationship is much more abusive. While it is obviously from a paranormal influence, Jack didn’t need much of a push from TOH to beat his wife into a pulp.
Despite sustaining injuries that I can’t imagine having, she is able to drag herself around the many halls and floors in search of Danny. Wendy and Jack have mummy/daddy issues but they handle them differently, Jack ends up becoming his father whereas Wendy accepts that she will always have traits – but strives to change them. This makes her maternal instincts incredibly powerful. In the film he’s madder than a box of frogs and she is just annoying as fuck.
Wendy is an enjoyable female lead in the book, she is by no means perfect, but every woman has a dark part in her soul that she keeps locked away. We all have our secrets and our regrets. Wendy uses those to spur her on in times of trouble, and TOH certainly gives her plenty of those. If nothing else she is the emotional anchor of the book, she gives it reason and stability and we could all learn a lot from her courage. As for movie Wendy, you get ‘nil-pwa’.
To finish off, we will talk about good ole “Daannnnyyyy boyyyyy!!” Now for reasons that we will never know, Kubrick decided to turn Danny into some freak child that talks through his finger. A child that is extremely difficult to communicate with and a child that is by all means Freud’s ideal case study. This works well with the horror genre, and Danny is way up there on my list of children I would not want to be my own (Aiden from The Ring is number one, that kid freaks me out). Forget everything you know about Danny, because the book Danny is a proper little legend.
Book Danny has a really tough life for a little boy, he can see dead things. He can hear his parents thoughts and isn’t able to understand most of them. He can’t ask about sex and divorce, he can’t tell them about his ability to ‘shine’ and he knows some serious shit is about to go down. It must be hard to be so different at such a young age, and to have naked dead women attack you. Danny is without a doubt the strongest character in both narratives, he finds courage when his parents cower and he is able to keep calm in terrible situations.
While movie Danny is a bit strange and a bit distant, book Danny is quite the opposite. He is able to eventually tell his mother about his shining and they form a tight bond when Jack begins to snap. While the movie shows Wendy trying to shield and protect Danny from the events, there are times in the book where the role is reversed and Wendy seeks comfort from Danny. He gives her an insight into Jack’s mind when he is in the bar talking to ghosts, and with the help of Tony, he is able to anticipate what will happen.
Tony is described in the movie as ‘the little boy that lives in his mouth’ whereas the book reveals that Tony is a real person, and when that moment happens you will probably feel like this…
Both the book and the film are absolute masterpieces but they are both totally different. I would always recommend watching the movie first, as it gives you the ability to imagine things more clearly, but the book gives you a bigger picture. It gave me a greater appreciation for both Kubrick and King – brilliant at their preferred mediums and an absolute delight to watch and read. Buy the book or you can even have my old copy.