Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the movie adaptation of The Shining is the fact that writer of the source novel, Stephen King, hates it, still, to this very day!. Really hates it and is not shy in expressing his thoughts about Stanley Kubricks work whenever the subject comes up, which puts a lot of horror fans, this fan in particular, in a bit of a quandary. Why? Because it’s fair to say that most horror fans, like me think The Shining is an exceptional film, from an exceptional filmmaker while still acknowledging King as one of the greatest horror story tellers of all time.
The story of an out of work teacher / writer who takes up a job as a winter caretaker in the isolated Overlook hotel with his accompanying family is pretty much the same in both. However, and this is something that many believe is the fundamental difference in both interpretations, in the novel (Stephen King himself has mentioned this), the true horror is internal to main character Jack, struggling with alcoholism, addiction, anger, failure that slowly drives the character mad. In the movie, it could be said that mental instability is there from the very start and it takes external influences, or surroundings (a staple of Kubricks work, see A Space Odyssey for example, or Full Metal Jacket) to light the fuse of a bomb that was always there. So in this case the ominous hotel and his sons strange behaviour are the catalysts for his downfall.
There are many autobiographical elements in the novel and perhaps this is why Stephen King dislikes the movie so much. Whereas in the novel, the writer character is a very flawed and troubled individual, we do see humanity and possible redemption in him towards its conclusion but in the movie however, not so much. Jack is troubled from the start and driven to madness by circumstance without saviour, a sad reminder perhaps to king of a character who he based himself on and who was regarded as unworthy of redemption in movie form by Kubrick. Pages, entire novels in fact, could be written on the subject but alas we must leave it there and advise you to experience both and make your own decision.