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Stephen King still hates ‘The Shining’

Stephen King takes a new swipe at the most celebrated adaptation of his work.
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Jonathan Doyle, September 20, 2013 8:32:26 AM

In the 33 years since the release of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, Stephen King has never been shy about his disapproval. (Determined to provide fans with a more faithful adaptation, King scripted the mediocre 1997 miniseries.) The stature of Kubrick’s film has only grown over the years—imdb users currently rank it as the 46th best film of all time—as has King’s disdain for it. Currently promoting Doctor Sleep, his belated sequel to The Shining (scheduled for release on Tuesday), King seized the opportunity to once again badmouth Kubrick’s film. “I think one of the things people relate to in my books is this warmth,” he told the BBC. “There’s a reaching out and saying to the reader, ‘I want you to be a part of this.’ With Kubrick’s The Shining, I felt that it was very cold, very, ‘We’re looking at these people, but they’re like ants in an anthill.’”

While few would dispute King’s charges of icy detachment, most Kubrick fans would challenge the assertion that this is a weakness. Given the story’s emphasis on wintry isolation, the director’s approach seems perfectly sensible. But that’s just one aspect of King’s critique. He reserves his strongest criticism for the film’s performances, complaining that Jack Nicholson makes his character’s madness too readily apparent, adding that Shelley Duvall’s Wendy is “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film.” As King sees it, Duvall plays a horror movie cliché, not a real person. “She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”

Duvall’s performance has long been a sore spot for Shining fans and detractors alike, but to be fair, the actress delivers a far more warmly human performance than Nicholson. As for the screaming (and being stupid), this is crucial to the irrational spirit of the film. If Duvall calmly explained everything she was going through, The Shining’s carefully calibrated sense of panicked disorientation would be lost. Of course, King has never been a reliable source of perspective on Kubrick’s film, a horror classic that has come to be more highly regarded than its source.

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