When the non-at all-awaited sequel to Stephen King’s 1977 book The Shining came out back in 2013, it was inevitable that someone, in the not too distant future, would try to adapt the book for the big screen. Not surprising, considering that the book quickly rose to the top of the best-sellers list that year.
Warner quickly secured the rights for a movie adaptation and along came Mike Flannagan, creator of the Netflix TV show, The House of Haunted Hill, and who had also adapted for them another Stephen King book; Gerald’s Game.
Now, is the movie any good?. And how does it stack up against the book?.
The answer to the first question is: Yes, it is a good movie, with solid performances from all the cast (a special mention to Rebecca Ferguson’s Rosie The Hat), very nice Cinematography, a very creepy soundtrack by the Newton Brothers, which closely resembles Wendy Carlos’ work for Kubrick’s The Shinning, and an overall very uncomfortable and eerie atmospheric tone that gives off some of the hypnotic vibe that made Kubrick’s movie such an iconic piece of Cinematic Horror.
With that out of the way, Flannagan doesn’t manage, at any moment, to better Kubrick’s work. Trying to better or even replicate Kubrick’s film would have been an exercise in futility. But he does try to replicate some of his imagery, though. In several instances, Flannagan does a very nice job of trying to replicate Kubrick’s shooting style with the heavy use of the Steadicam, especially in those sequences that take place in The Overlook Hotel during the third act, and with some of his editing choices; the fades come to mind. That being said, Flannagan is doing his own thing while trying to be reverential to the original movie. His is a more visceral and visual take on King’s material, which Kubrick’s film wasn’t. Kubrick leaned more heavily on suggestion and psychological drama. Flannagan’s movie has some cool imagery of its own; the scene when Rosie tries to invade Abra’s mind, but has her own mind probed instead; Abra rifling through thousands of files in Rosie’s cathedral-like memory depository, is a nicely put together scene and probably the best in the movie, as it gives the viewers a taste of how strong the psychic powers of both woman and child are. Flannagan also doesn’t shy away from graphic violence, either, as seen in the very unsettling scene when The True Knot kill the Baseball boy, without falling into Gore territory.
As for the second question, yes and no. The movie does try to follow the main bits of the storyline as presented in the book, especially for the first two acts of the movie. But, as the movie also wants to be a direct follow-up to the storyline as presented in Kubrick’s film, and given all the changes that Kubrick made to the story in the book when writing his screenplay, in order to be faithful to that storyline, said changes had to be kept in place, thus drastically changing the third act of the movie. Does it work?. I think it does. I’ve been reading Stephen King books for many years now, and although I’ve accused the Studios and screenwriters in many occasions of making such drastic changes to the source material that ended up causing a major shift between what was presented in the book and what was finally seen on-screen, I have to give a nod to Flannagan, on this occasion, in that he tries to present a final product that would generally agree with both die-hard fans of the books and those of Kubrick’s work. I, myself, have never been able to bring myself to read The Shining, as I’m both a King and a Kubrick fan, and I’m afraid that reading King’s book would severely undermine my appreciation for Kubrick’s movie. That being said, I did read Doctor Sleep a few years ago, and even though the movie deviates quite a lot from the book, I could appreciate these changes as a by product of trying to follow through with what Kubrick had laid out in the previous film, and not be bothered by them. This, as always, is my own appreciation and doesn’t necessarily reflect the general opinion on both the movie and the book.
The movie, for me, succeeds as both a Stephen King adaptation and a Horror movie; more than It: Chapter Two succeeded, in that is a more satisfying and rounded effort, whereas Andrés Muschietti’s movie resulted a bloated and over-the-top visual extravaganza, with very jarringly misplaced sense of humour and spectacle for the sake of spectacle. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Flannagan’s previous work, especially his Stephen King adaptation of Gerald’s Game, but I will be doing so in the near future, as I think he is a very interesting prospect for the future. Something we’re sorely lacking in the current Industry.
Thanks for reading.