‘The Shining’ Book vs. Movie: How King and Kubrick’s Versions Are Different

     November 6, 2019


Doctor Sleep comes out this Friday, the sequel to the 1980 iconic horror masterpiece The Shining from director Stanley Kubrick featuring Jack Nicholson in one of the most grandiose wild-eyed bugshit performances in history. Both films are based on books by Stephen King. However, Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining deviates from King’s novel in a few significant ways, which puts the new movie in a weird position. It has to be a sequel to both the iconic film The Shining, and the bestselling novel The Shining.

There’s a second wrinkle in that equation that needs to be addressed. Stephen King hated the 1980 Kubrick movie as hard as he possibly could, spending years bemoaning the changes the director had made to his story and the performances of the actors. King hated that movie so hard, in fact, that he scripted a miniseries version for ABC that aired in 1997.

Doctor Sleep writer/director Mike Flanagan is certainly up to the challenge of pleasing fans of the Kubrick film while not causing King to self-immolate (although in fairness, the author has gradually chosen to stay quiet about the numerous adaptations of his work if he doesn’t like them). Flanagan has quickly become one of the most popular new names in horror, thanks to a string of indie films like Oculus and Hush, and the hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, of which Flanagan wrote and directed every episode. And Doctor Sleep won’t be his first King adaptation – Flanagan made an excellent film out of King’s novel Gerald’s Game, which was praised by the author. If you haven’t seen it, it’s waiting patiently for you on Netflix – just be aware that it contains one of the most hard-to-watch sequences in recent horror. (The sequence was so similarly intense in the book that I had to set it down and do something else for a while after reading it.)

The point is, there’s a lot of anticipation for Doctor Sleep, as it has to please the dual masters of Kubrick and King. Which means there might be a few references that don’t entirely make sense, if all you’ve experienced of The Shining is Kubrick’s film. And if you’re a die-hard King purist who refuses to acknowledge anything beyond the words the man has committed to paper, you’re liable to experience similar confusion, as Doctor Sleep absolutely references events that take place exclusively in the Kubrick adaptation.

In the interest of harmony, and to avoid any Doctor Sleep screening dust-ups between groups of Shining fans oppositely wielding VHS tapes and novels, I’ve put together a quick primer of the major differences between Stephen King’s The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It’s not a comprehensive list (the litany of minor details that separate the book and the movie would be a novel in its own right), but I’ve definitely got you covered on all the big stuff. So pull on your snowboots and parkas and let’s go wandering through this ungodly hedge maze together, which is a perfect segue to the first point.

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