I watched this movie years ago, long before I became a King reader, and hated it. I hated it so much, in fact, that I decided that King probably wasn’t for me. But then I read an interview where King stated that he wasn’t a fan of the Kubrick film, either, and that it changed the story in not insignificant ways. Not long thereafter I picked up On Writing and loved it, which led to me reading ten more of his books in the past couple of years. The Shining marks my twelfth visit into the mind of Stephen King, and man can it be a terrifying place. I’m very glad that I can just go for a visit instead of having to reside there. And I would definitely be petrified to reside at the Overlook Hotel.
This book is iconic in ways, but due in large part to the aforementioned movie. While I wasn’t a fan of the movie, I can’t debate the fact that various scenes from said movie have wormed their way into our cultural subconscious. However, the book was quite different from the movie, and emphasized the supernatural element much more strongly.
In the movie, Danny seems almost like an afterthought. So much so, actually, that I failed to understand the importance of the title until I began reading the book. Danny is a six year old boy, the son of Jack and Wendy Torrence, and he’s not your average little boy. Danny shines, or sees and hears more than others can. He has premonitions, and and read minds without really trying. When Danny accompanies his parents to the Overlook Hotel, where his dad will be caretaker for the off-season, Danny is bombarded with psychic experiences, and they’re not pleasant. You see, the Overlook is alive in its own way, and it’s hungry for new residents: permanent residents.
Have you ever heard the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles? That song played over and over again in my mind as I read this book. Here was a hotel bound and determined to become your forever home. And it had some incredibly disturbing ways of ensuring that. Sentient buildings are always freaky, but the Overlook is without a doubt among the freakiest. But it’s not what scared me the most during this book. Neither was I frightened by Jack Torrence being driven slowly insane, or by the horrifying resident of room 217. No, what gave me the creeps and literally gave me nightmares were the malevolent hedge animals. Never have plants freaked me out so badly. There was just something about how King wrote them, and how he presented them through the eyes of his characters, that truly scared me. Books don’t usually have the power to scare me, because they’re just words on a page, but I was legitimately frightened by a scene featuring these hedge animals.
This wasn’t my favorite King novel, but I definitely understand its appeal and the reasoning behind its fame. There are lots of haunted house stories out there, but this one felt unique from all the others I’ve read. It’s definitely creepy. And now, I might have to rewatch the movie, just so I can accurately compare and contrast the two. If you’re looking to for a story that will have you sleeping with a light on, King is never the wrong decision.