Today in the Origins of My Love of Horror, I talk about the book and movie encapsulating everything I think of when I think of horror.

First, some context, I saw the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining in 1980. Some friends and I sat in a theater waiting for the beginning of a comedy. Suddenly, this terrifying trailer began. I knew nothing of Kubrick, or King, and had never heard of the novel. I can’t remember a single thing about the comedy we saw, but I remember exactly my thought processes as the trailer ran.

Needless to say, while my other friends seemed ready to see it almost immediately, my own feeling was that it was a movie I could almost guarantee I wouldn’t see, and made the decision to read the book instead, making the argument that there was no way the book was going to be as scary as the movie, much less as the trailer we just watched.

Yeah, I got that one wrong.

I fell in love with the book over the summer and fall. And, a few years later, I rented the movie from Blockbuster, and fell in love again.

Adaptations of movies often are different from their source material, of course — what works on the page won’t necessarily work on screen — and this is especially true of The Shining. (King has gone on record as disliking Kubrick’s movie.) Even this early in his career, King’s focus never strayed from the characters, while Kubrick appeared far more fascinated by the story’s concepts and ideas. In King’s novel, fate is not set, and is a consequence of our actions; in the world of Kubrick’s movie, past, present, and future are determined, and none of the characters can escape. You can see this in the messages Tony sends Danny throughout the movie; everything Danny sees from the very beginning comes to pass.

In 1997, ABC-TV aired a miniseries based on the novel. Directed by Mick Garris from a teleplay written by King, its fidelity to the source material is much higher, taking fewer artistic, narrative, and philosophical liberties. The miniseries is quite good in its own right, and is worth seeking out, though has never quite engaged me as much as either King’s masterful novel or Kubrick’s incredible adaptation.

What is your favorite book-to-screen adaptation? Let me know in the comments.



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