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Stephen King’s The Shining (1997)

TV miniseries review: Stephen King’s The Shining (1997), directed by Mick Garris

theshining1997Stephen King apparently wasn’t happy about Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining, of which he was not involved, so when it came to doing a miniseries adaptation, King got so involved he even wrote the screenplay himself. And thank goodness for that!

The story is still about recovering alcoholic John Torrance (Steven Weber), who takes on the job of winter caretaker of the magnificent but remote Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. As winter draws in, John, his wife Winifred (Rebecca De Mornay), and young son Daniel (Courtland Mead) arrive at the Overlook on the last day the staff are there.

Dick Hallorann (Melvin Van Peebles) is one of the last of the staff to leave, and he has what he calls “the Shining” – a psychic sensitivity – which he senses Daniel has as well. Which is true, Daniel has been seeing an “invisible friend” called Tony (Wil Horneff) for a while now.

Eventually, the Torrance family are left alone at the Overlook, where they will be until spring. A remote location, which is inaccessible during snow (the roads up there aren’t plowed), and hey, the only thing that happened to the last caretaker was that he got cabin fever and killed his family. Oh yes, and little Daniel is a powerful psychic in a hotel with a murky, and deadly, past. And his dad is a recovering alcoholic. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!

Also featuring Cynthia Garris as the 217 Woman and Elliott Gould as hotel owner Stuart Ullman.

What I didn’t like about Kubrick’s version is that it simply isn’t scary, and horror stories should be scary, right? At least parts of this miniseries are eerie – like the scene where all the chairs in the restaurant (?) all drop off the table at the same time. I remember the first time I saw that scene YEARS ago (when I still lived in Sweden) and remembered it as giving me goosebumps!

If you’re familiar with the Kubrick version, you’ll be missing the blood-gushing lifts, the tricycle rides, the hedge labyrinth and the ghoulish twins. Hopefully, you’ll find the rest much improved. Weber gives a more rounded performance as John, Mead actually gets to do stuff – and do a LOT of stuff to boot, including having proper lines! – as the kid, and THANK GOODNESS Winifred in this version does more than scream. Here, she’s a proper Mama Bear, not just a meek, put-upon shell of a woman.

The story is completely different, and crucially, the ending has a whole other meaning. I’ve not read the novel on which this is based, but since Stephen King himself wrote the screenplay, I’m guessing this is a very faithful adaptation – and it puts into perspective how off the rails the Kubrick film is. The miniseries ends on a completely different note compared to the film, and I much prefer this ending. It makes more sense, and also helps to redeem a character.

This version of The Shining is suitably creepy in places, set in a beautiful house in stunning surroundings and is a good watch. There’s a gradual build-up of spookiness and it works quite well altogether.

The miniseries consists of three 90-minute episodes.

3.8 out of 5 booze bottles.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

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