Friday, September 11, 2009

(16) The Shining

By Stephen King

Inside its shell the three of them went about their early evening routine, like microbes trapped in the intestine of a monster.

Mainly due to my mildly snobby attitude towards mainstream fiction in general, I’ve never given King’s oeuvre much of a chance. I’ve only read Carrie and parts of Cujo as a youngster, and just recently his stab at apocalyptic-horror, Cell. Since I found a used copy of The Shining for only a buck, I thought I’d give it a try, since I very much admired the film adaptation.

First off, reading the book made me realize what an extraordinary job Stanley Kubrick had done with the film version. The creative licenses he took made the movie much more intense, and much more frightening, than King’s original novel.

Some surprises for me:

- the endlessly typewritten “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, the ghostly twin girls and blood pouring out of the elevator were all from the movie, not the novel

- the novel was definitely in the genre of supernatural horror whereas the movie was more psychological horror

- the novel actually had a happy, or much happier ending, than the movie

These surprises stemmed from my assumption that the movie borrowed the major plot points and minor details from the book, while the well-known deviations, e.g. the labyrinth instead of the topiary and the ax instead of the roque mallet, would be few and far between. Since these deviations have become iconic cinematic images, it was weird to visualize the original source of the novel.

In any case, King’s novel was still really good and although I didn’t find it very scary, there were definitely some creepy and disturbing moments in there. But the experience is nevertheless marred by the powerful influence of Kubrick’s adaptation where at times I felt the novel to be a pale echo of the movie! This is where I felt that the movie version is superior to the book. The book was very good, but the movie was definitely a masterpiece in its own right.