Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Shining by Stephen King


I reviewed the excellent film by Stanley Kubrick HERE where I observed that it had significant differences to the source novel. I have also recently finished reading the novel so here is a review and comparison of where the film diverges from the original material.

Some of the differences are obvious from the cover Wendy is the gangly, lank haired Shelly Duval type but more of an ex-cheerleader another notable change is the lion that can be seen on the cover. In the original story The Overlook had a topiary of animals rather then the maze in the film and the animals move.

Before I go into what has to be unfortunately big spoiler territory i will give my verdict on the book. Unusual I know but i would hate to ruin it for anyone. This book is brilliant. On reflection it is apparent that it is an early King book as it isn’t quite as polished as his later works and he admits himself that he is not happy with certain passages. If you haven't read it please do so now, then come back and read the rest of this review. Of you go…

Right, now they have gone lets break out the whisky and hookers! The Shining is a work that chronicles Jack Torrances descent into madness, The Overlook itself is a palpable character and wants to assimilate Danny, his son, into its gestalt. Jack is their route to do this. Whereas the film is daunting from the start The Overlook of the book starts bright and happy and only with investigation does its dark past become more apparent, as does the dark past of Jack himself, abused by a drunkard father and terrified that that is what he will become. Ullman, the Hotel Manager,  is not happy for him to be there in this iteration but he has had his arm twisted by a friend of Jacks hat happens to be on the board of directors. Jack is a nice guy with a very dark past, one hell of a temper and an alcoholism problem to boot. He has lost his job and the absolute last hope for Jack and his family is this position. He needs The Overlook as much as it needs him. Stephen King portrays this character brilliantly with Jacks internal struggles thrown onto the page with sheer panache. Its not all just about Jack however. Tony, Dannys invisible friend, has warned him to not go with visions of a creature with a mallet chasing him down the hallways of the hotel. This is another notable change from the film and to my mind a mallet is a far more sinister weapon to get killed with as it gives the chance for damage without killing the victim something far more suspenseful to my mind then the killing axe!

Halloran the Chef is another major change, his character is more sympathetic in this version and doesn't get killed needlessly, a point in the film that I did feel was utterly worthless. His battle to reach The Hotel at the climax of the book is far more dramatic and not ultimately wasted as in the film.

Of course the biggest character is the hotel itself, Jack uncovers a brilliantly woven past that is a story in its own right (and i would love to see a “Tales from the Overlook” book arrive on the market) with murders and debauchery hidden behind the doors of the exquisitely decorated Hotel. All the time the Hotel is drawing on Dannys “shine” growing in power and menace. When 12pm comes it will be time to Unmask, unmask….and the Red Death will hold sway over all…

When the end comes for the Overlook it is final. There is not simply an escape for our protagonists as seen in Kubricks version but also a death to the edifice. Ultimately it is its own folly and ignorance of its needs that leads to its own death and it truly feels sad that it also destroys a man doing this.

Seriously, read The Shining, in the catalogue of Kings work it is only eclipsed by The Stand and IT. Although like Joey from Friends you may need to make space in the fridge.

Paul out…and watching the press, that bitch creeps.

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