Director: Mick Garris
Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Steven Weber, Melvin Van Peebles, Courtland Mead, some truly awful mid-90s CGI.
Have I Seen It Before: The mere notion of watching it up until my deep-dive into Shining-ology this week seemed ridiculous. And yet, here I am.
People often complain when a filmed adaptation is released, if the subsequent work doesn’t strictly adhere to the source material. Those who adore Stephen King’s original novel The Shining decry Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film of the same name. King himself is among the most prominent of this ilk. I tend to disagree with them, both in general and specifically in this case. There’s something interesting about a true adaptation, that a transcription just can’t quite accomplish. See Watchmen (2009) for a pretty perfect example of this phenomenon.
But, King was unhappy with the Kubrick film and he thought he could do better. So he tried. He managed to retrieve the rights to his own novel from Kubrick (for a price that various sources indicate was 2 million dollars, and an agreement that King cool it with his criticism of the original film), wrote a 4 1/2 hour teleplay, and had the company film the thing in Stanley Hotel, the same inn that had inspired him to
It’s a TV miniseries from the 90s. Thus, it has what you would think for production values (to say nothing of the special effects), and the acting to back it up. One particularly egregious example is a series of helicopter tracking shots following the Torrance’s to the Overlook. Kubrick already mastered such a shot with the opening of his movie. Inviting the comparison by trying to work in the same milieu isn’t doing your movie any favors. It is not of quality anywhere near the Kubrick original, even if it is occasionally slavish to the novel.
But that shouldn’t surprise you. What might surprise you is the points where King actually diverts from his novel. An extended epilogue is attached, showing Dick Hallorann (Melvin Van Peebles) very much a part of the surviving Torrance’s lives. Young Danny (Courtland Mead) is graduating from High School, and as it turns out, he looks exactly like his vision from many years ago of his imaginary friend, Tony (Wil Horneff). Yikes.
Elsewhere, the smoky wreck of the Overlook is being rebuilt. Dun dun dun. Sorry, Mr. King. Your old friend Kubrick had the Overlook still standing at the end of his version of your story. It may work better, but the complaint of a poor adaptation rings false with this decision. You desperately want Jack Torrance (Steven Weber) to be something of a sympathetic figure, but negating his sacrifice by rebuilding the hotel is a little like those helicopter shots of the VW Bug: It’s been done before.