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In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)


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In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby sinful Celluloid » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:53 pm

The Shining (1980)


Image


All work and no play make Jack a dull boy...


I don't like Stephen King. Not personally as I have never met him, but his writing, or more to the point, his endings. He is a writer who creates rich characters and tense build ups, but in the end the buildup is so great that his by the numbers endings just don’t hold up. Recently, my girlfriend asked me to watch The Shining, one of her favorites. I know being a horror guy and a film guy in general, it's unthinkable that I have never seen this film. But like I stated, I don’t like Stephen King, nor am I the biggest Jack Nicholson fan and to be frank, there just isn’t enough of Shelly Duvall in some places and a little too much in others to get anyone excited. So those are my excuses. After we finished I was intrigued, so we watched The Shining miniseries. They are near unrecognizable as coming from the same source for most of the duration.

Stanley Kubrick was a master of film and one who makes his own choices. I don't want to go into the novel, because we are just discussing the movie, but the differences are many. I for one believe that the entire family slips into madness, Jack further than the others. This would make Dick Hallorrann the only one with a reliable point of view. You’ll have to decide for yourself. I'll explain...

The Shining starts somber with aerial shots of the most secluded mountain roads ever, as we see this little VW Bug trekking upward and onward to the Overlook Hotel. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a struggling writer, has seen hard times. He is an artist at heart but has been working as a teacher to support himself and his family. He is now taking a job as a caretaker for the hotel during the winter months when it’s closed. He sees it as an opportunity to be paid as he writes, so that he can finally start the next chapter of his life. The hotel manager, Stuart Ullman, informs him of the hotel’s history including a previous caretaker who murdered his twin girls and wife with an axe before swallowing the business end of a double barreled shotgun. Jack seems concerned but determined to take this job.

His wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), is a seemingly meek woman who is trying to hold her family together. She comes off like a battered woman who’s constantly making excuses for her husband’s shortcomings. Through her we learn that he had a drinking problem that resulted in an accidental injury to his son Danny’s shoulder and has since been on the wagon.

Danny (Danny Lloyd) is a quiet child who has an imaginary friend named Tony. He talks from Danny’s finger and seems a little odd. Odder still, is the fact that Tony seems to know things that a finger just shouldn’t.

Ok, so all the players are in place. We know their history. Now let’s continue. Danny starts seeing things right away including the dead twins from the previous murder. During the tour, Wendy and Danny are handed over to Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), the head chef, who gives them the kitchen tour.

He starts calling Danny by the name Doc, very casually, which prompts Wendy to ask about it. Apparently, that’s Jack and Wendy’s nickname for him, but Mr. Hallorann wouldn’t know that, or would he? The answer soon comes when, as he’s talking to Wendy, he turns to Danny and speaks to him telepathically. When they are alone, having ice cream, Mr. Hallorann tells Danny about “the shining”, the ability to speak to others telepathically, in which Danny replies that he cannot talk about his ability, because “Tony” won’t let him.

Danny is a frightened child. He possesses a power that he doesn't understand and it frightens him. More importantly though, is that Danny is a child and does not have the psyche to deal with what he is experiencing. His father dislocated his shoulder in a fit of rage. His parents act less than loving toward each other, and his father is someone that he doesn't recognize. Adults go mad everyday because of the stresses of life. What do you think is going to happen to a child?

As soon as they are alone in the hotel, things start to unravel. Jack’s mind starts to slip, slowly at first, but rapidly as the months go on. Consider this; Jack is a recovering alcoholic. He is a fragile man who has not had a drink in five months due to the incident with his son. In this version he doesn't go to AA so he basically quit cold turkey. He is alone in an isolated hotel with no one around but the people you love and to some degree, probably resent. You go through stages when you give up something you love, no matter the reasons. Denial, guilt, anger, resentment, all of them, and he's living with the constant reminder without any other contact what's so ever. Once Jack cracks outright he begins to see and speak to Mr. Grady. Who steers him toward murder or redrum if you will. He knows the story of Grady and how he murdered his family. He is a writer, so he has an active imagination and is walking the halls that are so quiet that you can hear a pin drop. Thinking about the murders, projected onto his family, irritated that he not only won't drink, but couldn't have one if he wanted to, and if that damn kid wouldn't have gotten hurt in the first place, he would have been able to bring his booze with him...etc.

When things go off the deep end during the final night, Wendy can see weird things as well, but not the stuff that we've seen before. These are new visions, perhaps manifestations from her own damaged psyche. Her's are a little sexually perverse at times and she comes off as a missionary woman at best, so where does this come from? Maybe her skeletons are many. It certainly is possible considering her fragility. She acts almost like Jack's daughter, seeking his approval at every turn.What ever the reason, she may have been drug down mentally by the onslaught of events and the isolation as well.

In the end it could be that only Hallorann is sane. Having dealt with his shining and the hotel for many years he knows how to handle the situation he is in. The child might never recover. Wendy could end up the crazy woman with the cats who lives with her slightly invalid son. It is entirely possible in the world created by Kubrick.

The performances are stellar. Jack Nicholson, who had already become known as a madman, was cast against Stephen King’s wishes, who felt that the characters decent into madness would be destroyed by his casting. Jack is a sinister person, always has been, always will be. We know he's mad the second we meet him. There is no shock or surprise. There for, its not the story, but the storytelling. Steven king wanted someone more normal and suggested John Voight.I understand the everyday man angle, but they have to be able to bring the insanity. Most actors can do one or the other. Error on the side of caution.

Shelly Duvall, as stated above, plays the film as a fragile victim and almost prisoner of her husbands will. She doesn’t evoke strength or courage, simply frantic anxiety. Her casting was also disputed by King, who wanted a blonder, sexier, cheerleader type woman that had never dealt with any problems, rather than Duvall, who looked as if she had been run through the ringer. Interestingly, she is the only one we ever see doing any work. She is shown the kitchen, she handles the boilers, etc. She is more caretaker than Jack, who really just sits in front of his typewriter all day. Is she in fact, the caretaker, Since Jack and Danny have the same visions, does Jack exist at all? They both can be seen talking to entities at great length in mirrors. In a deleted scene we learn that Jack's body is never found. This is a little more far fetched but again, when you are dealing with a film like this, all bets are off.

All of these are the choices of the director known for getting exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it, no matter how long it took. The hotel set is spare and claustrophobic at the same time. There is something inherently creepy about long empty hotel corridors. The theme is as haunting as the sets, the opening theme, a variation of Dies Irae, the catholic funeral dirge, echoes the coming of death.

Alot of the visions in the film are unexplained. They exist more for cause and effect rather than actual plot points. The meaning of the blood flood from the elevator is thematic more than anything as is the final photo on the wall. Stripping away the explanation allows for the viewer to dig deeper into the hotel to find their own answers.

The film plays with a building of inevitable doom. The white on black title cards only increase the uncomfortable feeling we get with each passing day. Every time Jack yells or twitches, we see a piece of his mind break away and we want to tell him to leave, get out with your family before something bad happens. The scenes of Danny riding the Big Wheel around the hotel are masterfully done and the sound of hard plastic alternating against hardwood and carpet creates its own unparalleled soundtrack which brings to mind Evil Dead’s overhead basement scene or the eclectically raw industrial soundtrack of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Speaking of Blade Runner, not only does the film feature Replicant inventor Dr. Tyrell (Joe Turkel), but also some of the opening aerial footage was tacked on to the end of the studio ‘s theatrical version to create the happy ending.

I love this film because sometimes the meat of the story is all you need. The less is more philosophy. I’m not one for people who say they’ve “retained the essence” of a book or film, but in Stanley’s case, I make an exception. The film leaves you with many points that cause us to ask; “Are there ghosts?” “Are both Jack and Wendy’s visions a result of their decent into madness?” “Are Danny’s visions’ in fact premonitions?” The possibilities are endless. Kubrick paints an open ended picture that can be interpreted in many different ways and contains some of the most iconic lines and images of modern horror.

The Shining miniseries (1997)


Image

Stephen King wrote the teleplay for the 1997 miniseries directed by Mick Garris. It is a faithful adaption of the novel but as is usually the case, this isn’t always a good thing.

The miniseries begins with Jack being shown the boilers by Pete Watson (Pat Hingle), who tells him about the unstable boilers and the history of the hotel including the suicide of the previous caretaker Grady. As for Ullman, the hotel manager, he doesn’t want Jack there, but the higher ups have already hired him.

Jack is a recovering alcoholic complete with bible and “One day at a time“ desk plaque. He lost his teaching job at a prep school for assaulting some asshole kid who was slashing his tires with a large knife. A smarter man would have cried self-defense and assault with a deadly weapon but Jack is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

When they first get to the hotel, they get the tour from Pete. As they do, Dick Hallorann shows up and takes Danny out to the car to unload the luggage. Hallorann recognizes that Danny has the shining, or precognition, and that he is quite powerful. Hallorann has it too and tells Danny that if something happens that he should send out the most powerful blast he can and maybe he will “hear” it in Florida and he’ll come running.

Danny’s visions start immediately and terrify him. Things take their time to get going as the film explores the day to day with minor scenes of foreboding. The family dynamic is more melodrama than deterioration.

The casting is interesting. The adults are all top notch performers and it did show promise. What works on paper however, doesn’t always work as a piece of action.

Steven Weber’s Jack is nowhere as edgy or as desperate as Jack Nicholson’s, he is the everyman that Stephen wanted but is wholly uninteresting. I don’t believe this is the fault of Weber’s, he is a capable and likeable actor, and the material just isn’t there. Steven's Jack is a weak man who succumbed to alcohol and never really rises above that. This story is personal to King because of his own battle with alcoholism but frankly, who cares? Also, as executive producer, King was sure to be hands on and a film maker can usually be a writer but a writer is not always a film maker. They are two separate sensibilities that don’t always go hand in hand.

Tony’s manifestation as a teenager is hokey, pokey and turns my stomach around. It just doesn’t work. It plays like a bad superhero adaption. As for Danny (Courtland Mead), he belongs more in a “Dennis the Menace” movie (check out his wardrobe), than this. Where Danny Lloyd was only asked to be scarred and play with his finger, Courtland Mead is asked to carry an extremely psychological role and he is no Kirstin Dunst.

Rebecca De Mornay is crazy hot as always but of course doesn’t get naked cause it’s T.V. Ok, ok, I digress, her character seems as though lifted from a “Lifetime” movie. She most definitely plays the mother role with strength and conviction but again, is let down by the script. She is the type of woman King wanted, but as she is played, a problem arises. Rebecca's Wendy is way too strong for Jack. She never would put up with his bullshit. She demonstrates this throughout the film and it doesn't ring true in scenes with Steven Weber. We're left with a feeling that she could clock him at any minute.

Finally it comes down to Hallorann vs. Hallorann. Scatman Crothers was a veteran of over 100 films in his career. He worked with the best and it showed. Melvin Van Peebles has made 30 some odd films and though a fine actor in his own right, he's no Scatman. Wardrobe didn't help either. They dressed him looking like a pimp from one of his exploitation films and that wasn't a good start. Scatman looked world weary and wise.They both have a shamefully limited amount of screen time but Scatman does more with the role with less time to do it in. That's an artist!

Another major problem with the miniseries is the set. Shot at the real inspiration for the Overlook Hotel, the Colonial style structure is more Mark Twain than House on Haunted Hill. The sets undercut the atmosphere and by course, the actor’s performances. The music is equally forgettable, and unfortunately, so are most of the horror scenes. The bathtub lady plays scarey and disturbing in the Kubrick film. A twisted scene that leaves you repulsed. As it plays here, it is more of a creepy zombie scene and is also the only genuine creepy moment in the film.



Every other scene in the miniseries plays more like a bad remake of the Amityville Horror, down to the stormy final night and crazy father trying to kill his family. There is no tension, no horror. Just the occasional ghost talking to Jack and a message about the evil's of alcohol.

Dialogue. I would talk about it but there isn't much to say. Every great line from that associated with The Shining came from the Kubrick film, not the book. There for, there's nothing in the miniseries worth repeating.

Is it hurt by the T.V. format? Yes, I think it is. Too many scenes really don’t mean anything and only get in the way of the films dramatic ending. With a miniseries you have the luxury of time, but that can also be your enemy. It runs long and indulges itself when it shouldn’t.

Without the theatrical budget, scenes like the hedge animals come off as amateurish and silly. The mafia massacre storyline is less creepy and thought provoking than the Grady murder/suicide from the film. The New Year’s Eve ball is another area that just doesn’t work. More Dark Castle than Stephen King (and yes I know that Dark Castle films came after). Another thing is that the miniseries doesn’t really isolate the family till the end, and even then they don’t ever really feel cut off.

In Kubrick’s film, Jack is locked in the freezer by Wendy and is possibly let out by the ghost of Grady. He then murders Dick Hallorann and chases Danny through a hedge maze before freezing to death in the snow.

Garris’ film has Jack chasing his family through the hotel after escaping the freezer and bashing Wendy pretty damn good with the croquet mallet. She returns the favor and hobbles away. Now the spirits are manifesting themselves to Wendy as well as Jack limps after her.He then is informed by Grady that Hallorann has come, so he heads down and bashes him good but not fatal. He finally is able to regain control for a moment and tell Danny and Wendy to escape because the boiler is gonna blow. Which it does, killing Jack as Wendy, Danny and Hallorann escape.

So that leaves us stuck between two Kings. Which adaption is better? I think it’s safe to say that Kubrick’s is better by FAR, but Garris’s is more faithful. Several problems arise from the original material as conceived in King’s head. It may work as a book, but as a film it is mostly potatoes with very little meat. I am glad that I finally saw The Shining and also that I watched the miniseries though that was mostly a day I’ll never get back. So in the end I still don’t like Stephen King but I like his ideas, I just think they need to be stripped down like a piece of coal and maybe, just maybe, if you let yourself, you’ll find a diamond.
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby dew » Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:40 pm

RE: Kubrick's version -
Hmm. King's problems with Nicholson were more noted for having been his seeming off-balanced at the start of the film, when the progression of the madness was meant to be a huge crux of the plotline. Nicholson has been playing the same cantankerous kook since at least Chinatown.

I disagree wholeheartedly that King "wanted a blonder, sexier, cheerleader type woman that had never dealt with any problems", as that was not the character he had written in the novel and a great deal of his distaste with the Kubrick film was that it strayed so far from the source text. Why would he seek to change something when his beef all along had been the massacre of his own work?

The parts of the film that you feel are unexplained and useless, including the photo, were, again, a part of the novel which is so barely touched upon as to make them incongruous with the story. Kubrick's adaptation - if it can even be referred to as such, with all of the changes - cherry-picks bits and bobs of the novel and slams them together in a disjointed mishmash suited to his own trippy tastes.

RE: Miniseries
I loved Weber's Jack, because he actually goes through a transformation. The alcohol - in BOTH versions, mind - is not really there. It's a mind trick used by the Overlook to try and ply Jack to its whims and can't really have any affect. What happens to him happens because he begins to embody the Overlook, which is why its so important that he is at one point able to come back, overpower it, and attempt to save his son.

DeMornay's contrast to Duvall is stark and purposeful. The job as the Overlook caretaker was meant to be Jack's last straw, so to speak, for an intelligent and strong wife who was done dealing with his problems. It was their last trial at making it as a family. The character was never meant to be a jumpy little mouse of a woman. She stays when Jack's madness arrives - which it does AFTER the snow - because there is no safe way out for herself and her son - no other reason.

You say you like King but you don't like his ideas - but the entire plot was his idea. It was Kubrick who twisted it for his own liking and made it something different. They two bear no real comparison because they aren't the same story. Kubrick's story is a dried-out alcoholic who loses his mind to cabin fever. The miniseries is the story of a physical place that is a manifest of pure evil and the effect it has upon a struggling family.

Normally I just voice my thoughts on the subject and move on, but this piece really got to me. I think my biggest problem is your assertion that "It is a faithful adaption of the novel but as is usually the case, this isn’t always a good thing."

It offends me as a writer, for a start. You're basically stating that a writer doesn't know or can't do justice to their own work, when the truth is, no one has any right to say WHAT their writing means or should be BUT the writer.

The novel, like much of King's work, is meant as a slow build. If you don't like the format, you go with something else. You don't hack a brilliant novel to bits for your own purposes.
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby sinful Celluloid » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:52 pm

I actually start off by saying that I don't like King. I think he is, over all, not a very good writer. He creates good characters, but doesn't know how to bring closure to them. As for the blonder chickie bit, that is widely reported and I can only go with what I read. I am a professional screenwriter and a filmmaker so I understand both processes, but for me, Kubrick is a genius and King is not. I don't think any of his books are good. I also don't like most King-based movies. As for a writer not knowing whats best for his work, they don't always. King is not a film maker, and what works on the page doesn't always work as a piece of action. I am not saying that a writer doesn't know, I'm saying that King doesn't know film, and although I do like Mick Garris, he also failed. Once a film's rights are sold, it no longer belongs to the writer(s). The people who own the film rights have every right to do what they will and interpret the material as they see fit; they have paid for the right to do so. We as fans of written material can get mad and not acknowledge the final product but that is our choice. I like The Crow as a film, but it is a terrible comics adaption because it bares little resemblance to the original comic. I know many professional comic book writers and most of them have no business behind a camera. It's a different thought process. It's a different line of work. I mean no offense to you as you are entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to mine.
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby dew » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:13 pm

sinful Celluloid wrote:I actually start off by saying that I don't like King. I think he is, over all, not a very good writer. He creates good characters, but doesn't know how to bring closure to them. As for the blonder chickie bit, that is widely reported and I can only go with what I read. I am a professional screenwriter and a filmmaker so I understand both processes, but for me, Kubrick is a genius and King is not. I don't think any of his books are good. I also don't like most King-based movies. As for a writer not knowing whats best for his work, they don't always. King is not a film maker, and what works on the page doesn't always work as a piece of action. I am not saying that a writer doesn't know, I'm saying that King doesn't know film, and although I do like Mick Garris, he also failed. Once a film's rights are sold, it no longer belongs to the writer(s). The people who own the film rights have every right to do what they will and interpret the material as they see fit; they have paid for the right to do so. We as fans of written material can get mad and not acknowledge the final product but that is our choice. I like The Crow as a film, but it is a terrible comics adaption because it bares little resemblance to the original comic. I know many professional comic book writers and most of them have no business behind a camera. It's a different thought process. It's a different line of work. I mean no offense to you as you are entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to mine.


As someone whose professional and educational backgrounds are both in writing, in terms of business, professional, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, and, of course, fiction, and having professionally reviewed books of all sorts, I would have to disagree. As it happens, King is one of the few (if not only) popular writers whose work can be classified and studied as high literature - at least two of his novels are currently on curriculum at NEIU. I find a good deal of horror fans who seek out King's work are perhaps not quite on that par for their preferred entertainment, but there's a grand difference in saying 'I do not like this' and saying 'This is not good'. I do not like Dickens, but his work is still good. I love some of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer original series novels, but I know they are not good. I do not like Stephenie Meyer and still know that her books are trash. There's a helluva difference.

I'm beginning to study film on an academic level for the first time, so though I am not at your level, I have written screenplays of my own (mostly one-act plays, comedies), film review is a huge part of my writing here at HorrorBid, as it was at Forever Horror and Film Monthly, I still feel I can hold my own in that manner of argument. I understand film, what will and won't work on camera, and still I find great problems with Nicholson's portrayal of Jack as being too quickly fallen towards the insanity that is meant to reach its fervor at the same time the hotel's evil becomes most manifestly dangerous. It's all about pacing. Yes, it made for a few shocks and jumps, but I don't feel it ever instilled the sort of fear that comes with a slow build towards danger, which, again, is central to King's story.

And yes, I am aware of the issues that come with film rights being sold off. In terms of King's work, its how we've gotten Children of the Corn sequels ad nauseam and films that should not be redone are up for remakes. People make less than great choices early in their careers when it comes to licensing their original creative material. Look at the Beatles. Whether the rights are sold or not, it doesn't make it okay for screenwriters, studios, and directors to slaughter a good original work. It just makes it legal.
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby hotshot » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:41 pm

Thanks so much for writing this article about one of my all time favorite movies. I appreciate the breakdown of the movie itself as opposed to comparing it to the book like so many other reviewers have done & still do. I did not read the book. I understand that Mr. King doesn't appreciate Mr. Kubrick's take on his material, for this reason and/or that reason. So, whatever, I don't care. Mr. Kubrick made a movie, people came & saw & loved it & still do. Why? Because it is freakin awesome. Does it matter that it isn't the book on screen? No. More often than not, a book will not translate to screen exactly. Why? They are 2 entirely different mediums. Do you think Mr. Tolkien is rolling over in his grave because of the liberties Mr. Jackson took with the Lord of the Rings trilogy?? Come on, let's be real here. I saw The Shining miniseries as well and couldn't stand it. I don't know if it's like the book, and frankly I don't care. It was made for T.V., it was terrible and I so wish I could get that time back. We all have our own opinions, our own perceptions, our own reasons for feeling as we do. Nuff said :)
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby dew » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:55 pm

hotshot wrote:Thanks so much for writing this article about one of my all time favorite movies. I appreciate the breakdown of the movie itself as opposed to comparing it to the book like so many other reviewers have done & still do. I did not read the book. I understand that Mr. King doesn't appreciate Mr. Kubrick's take on his material, for this reason and/or that reason. So, whatever, I don't care. Mr. Kubrick made a movie, people came & saw & loved it & still do. Why? Because it is freakin awesome. Does it matter that it isn't the book on screen? No. More often than not, a book will not translate to screen exactly. Why? They are 2 entirely different mediums. Do you think Mr. Tolkien is rolling over in his grave because of the liberties Mr. Jackson took with the Lord of the Rings trilogy?? Come on, let's be real here. I saw The Shining miniseries as well and couldn't stand it. I don't know if it's like the book, and frankly I don't care. It was made for T.V., it was terrible and I so wish I could get that time back. We all have our own opinions, our own perceptions, our own reasons for feeling as we do. Nuff said :)


There's a big difference between liking the movie on its face value and comparing it to a faithful adaptation and declaring it better. Apples and oranges. Not that you can make a fair assessment of any adaptation AS an adaptation without having read the book - you can only look at it in terms of a film.

Everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion, but that means a dissenting opinion shouldn't be demonized and condescended ;)
I love that HB is fan-driven, and we get all of these varied opinions from people from all walks of life, looking at films from all different angles. You can discover things you never knew, even about your favorite flicks. But at the end of the day, it's really about respect - we can disagree, but still have to respect the opinion while voicing our disagreement. If not, no one will want to read OR write here anymore.

Sidenote: LotR was pretty faithful. Even the crazed Tolkien junkies were pretty cool with it. The ones I know were all pretty stoked, and are still in a tizzy over the upcoming The Hobbit. I'm sure JRR wouldn't have a problem.
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Re: In The Name Of Stephen King: The Shining (1980) VS. The Shining (1997)

New postby Sephit » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:15 am

I was just about to crash out when I saw this article and had to read it. I've seen Kubrick's film plenty of times and although it's a little slow at first, the tension builds and the creepy factor is relentless. That being said, I remember watching the miniseries and being stoked about...until I watched it. I don't remember the acting being bad but I believe that it was hindered dramatically by being subjected to TV standards. The fact that it was written for television should have been an indicator that it was doomed from the start. Sure there have been plenty of good miniseries shown on TV but The Shining was not meant to be one of them. I have nothing against Stephen King, in fact I really enjoyed The Mist and to me it's the best Stephen King film. As for his books, I recommend the Dark Tower series, they are ace.
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