It’s been 45 years since the Torrance family (and the world) first checked into the Overlook Hotel and unraveled its dark history. Not only was the publication of The Shining a major milestone for Stephen King’s career, but it revitalized the horror genre. It modernized classic Gothic horror tropes, becoming an instant classic among readers.
To celebrate 45 years of this iconic novel, we’re taking a look at the legacy of The Shining and what makes us keep coming back to this chilling story of isolation all these years later.
Stephen King’s Inspiration
The story behind the novel itself is one to rival that of the fictional Overlook Hotel. King was inspired to write The Shining in 1974 after a peculiar stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
King and his wife, Tabitha, checked into the Stanley Hotel for one night right at the end of the tourist season, when all the other guests were checking out. This made them the only guests staying there that night. They dined alone in the grand dining room while taped orchestral music played, echoing down the long, empty halls of the hotel.
The couple stayed in room 217, which is allegedly haunted, among other rooms. When Tabitha went to bed that night, King stayed up a bit longer, enjoying a drink at the bar and wandering the empty halls. He went to bed that night with the idea of the book that would be The Shining in his mind.
King even had a nightmare that night of his son running and screaming down the halls of the hotel while being chased by a firehose. If all that isn’t inspiration for a horror novel, we don’t know what is.
The Shining’s Literary Influences
The Shining also takes inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe stories like The Masque of the Red Death and The Fall of the House of Usher, and Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. The novel’s characters are isolated from society, allowing them to fall victim to their own bad choices as they descend into madness via supernatural elements or their own mental and emotional turmoil.
The Overlook Hotel is as much a character as the members of Torrance family. With its mysterious history and cast of shadowy characters who seemingly still haunt the place, The Shining‘s Overlook utilizes tropes from the classic Gothic horror stories we love. Sometimes all you need is a creepy old house (or hotel, in this case) that’s cut off from society, some supernatural elements, a little mental and emotional unrest, and you’ve got the making for a great horror story.
A Long-Awaited Sequel
In 2013 King published Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining. The book centers on a grown-up Danny Torrance who secretly uses his psychic abilities known as “the shining” to comfort dying patients in a local hospice. When he unexpectedly runs into a 12-year-old girl with an even more powerful manifestation of the shining, the two are faced with combating a murderess tribe of ageless nomads, the True Knot.
Doctor Sleep was well-received by critics and fans alike. Though it doesn’t have scares like The Shining, it delivers a well-rounded conclusion for the character of Danny Torrance. It depicts the psychological toll the events of The Shining took on Danny, and shows his struggle to deal with that trauma.
In 1980, Stanley Kubrick produced and directed a film adaptation of the novel, which starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. It initially received mixed reviews from critics and fans of the novel. Many argued Kubrick’s adaptation took away all that was scary about King’s original story. Even King himself criticized the film, specifically citing his dislike of Kubrick’s downplaying of the supernatural forces that were heavily present in the novel.
Despite numerous criticisms, feelings towards Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining have shifted favorably, with the film being considered one of the greatest, most influential horror films of all time. Who could possibly forget the, “Here’s Johnny,” scene?
In 2019 a film adaptation of Doctor Sleep hit the screens. Director Mike Flanagan stated that while the film is a direct adaptation of the 2013 book, it acknowledges Kubrick’s 1980 film, reconciling the two in a way he hoped would satisfy fans of the novel and film.
Though critical reception has been mixed regarding the film, King was won over by Flanagan’s screenplay of Doctor Sleep. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, King said, “I read the script very, very carefully and I said to myself, ‘Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for here.'”
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