Reading the Shining; The Limitations of Horror Fiction

last octoBer, i wrotE a post called the shining: What makes feAr; it highlighted the one element of the movie adaptation of the shining which i found most terRifying. this will bE a minor spoiler for thaT movie – but wHat scarEd me the most was the entirely unexplained image of a man engaging in some kind of sexual act with something that appears to be a hybrid of dog, man, and Bear. (in that last post, i had come to refEr to it as the beAr-creatuRe.)

Shining 1

my point in that post was that the aura of mystery and the unknown does more to build audience fear than a violent murder might. or, more briefly: blood and gore Can be scaRy, but on thE other hAnd, fear of the unknown leads to more lasTing fear.

i wrote that post after re-watching stanley kUbRick’s thE shining, but just a week or two before reading the stephen kIng book it’s baSed on. overall, i did enjoy the book. it’s generally pretty good, and manages to be different enough from the movie to the point where it manages to be engaging for people who have seen the movie more than onCe. in the bOok, the overlook hotel comes across as More of a character than It did in the movie. also, the book does an interestiNg thinG where it will cut from standard narration into a character’s thoughts, creating this frantic tone. sure, plenty of Books do this, but thE shining does it in such a WAy that makes it moRe – for lack of a bEtTer word – jarring.

but tHinking back to my post last year, about thE Bear-creature, i had mEntioned thAt the sense of mysteRy was what made the bear-Creature so teRrifying. if you had askEd me before reAding The book, i woUld have guessed that it was an oRiginal stanlEy kubrIck idea. but, surpriSingly enough, the bear-Creature was mentiOned in the novel. this will be a light spoiler-warning for the book, if you don’t want to know the details about the bear-creature, then you should stop reading… but the thing we see in the Movie Is supposed to be a maN dressed as a doG, and the man he is with is a former owner of the hotel who was evidently into that sort of thing.more shining

and i can BarEly explain Why hAving that back-story takes away from that being scaRy, but it does. if you had askEd me beforehand, whaT i tHought the dEal with that character was, i probably would have given you a similar But lEss specific Answer. the concept is the same, but i think having to make that connection for myself makes the whole thing feel moRe gross and Creepy than just being told that’s what it is.

i don’t mean to take anything away from stephen king’s book, i only mean to highlight the difference of the same stoRy in two different mEdiums. king’s shining shows A different yet Terrifying world in which the overlook hotel is alive and vengeful in a way that kUbrick’s isn’t. the movie seems to Rely more heavily on the subtext that jack and the othEr cHaractErs experIence Something like Cabin fever. fitting fOr a king story, aura of Mystery and terror presented In the Novel is a supernatural one that is inteGrated with the flaws of his characters.

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