Had Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror epic The Shining existed independent of the Stephen King novel upon which it was based, it would’ve been considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made. And it was truly a great Stanley Kubrick film—which means a lot, given he was a genius of the form. But it was a crappy adaptation of the King novel, and nearly 40 years later the author still doesn’t hesitate to make his feelings known.
Blumhouse Productions—a movie mill that’s been turning out reliably good horror for a few years now—recently asked Twitter about favorite films based on King novels:
— Blumhouse (@blumhouse) February 22, 2017
Their mistake was probably using the iconic still from Kubrick’s film of ghostly twins inviting young Danny Torrance to “come play” with them. The author, who has superior Twitter game compared to many of his peers from the bestseller lists, was quick to reply:
@blumhouse Not this one.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) February 22, 2017
That’s our Uncle Stevie.
When Kubrick’s film first hit theaters, King kept his opinions to himself. He was already a superstar author but still young and probably made plenty of coin off the flick. In later years, though, he’s been forthright about what Kubrick did with his story. Rolling Stone asked him in 2014 if he was “mystified” by the film’s “cult following”
King most definitely is mystified, and told RS that “obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t.” His reasons are pretty clear, though. “The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice,” he said. “In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene.”
He also had a problem with Shelley Duvall’s portrayal of Wendy, whom Kubrick turned from a strong, motherly character to “this sort of screaming dishrag.” Prior to that interview, King also told the BBC that Kubrick’s movie presented the characters “like ants in an anthill, aren’t they doing interesting things, these little insects.”
The safest thing to do is to remember movies and novels serve different purposes when telling stories. It’s totally possible for fans to enjoy the hell out of Jack Nicholson’s balls-out nutty caretaker in the Kubrick film and still dive deep into the King novel again—they’re equally awesome if you love both art forms.
Unless, of course, you’re Stephen King.