Stephen King was not one of the 100-plus horror luminaries to participate in our Ultimate Horror Movie Poll (though we did ask), but it's safe to assume that the Master of Horror wouldn't have included Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of “The Shining” in his personal Top 10. The author famously disliked — one might say even hated — what the director did with his second novel, complaining about Jack Nicholson's unhinged performance as Jack Torrance (“where is the tragedy if the guy shows up for his job interview and he”s already bonkers?”), the depiction of Shelley Duvall's Wendy as “this sort of screaming dishrag” and Kubrick's “cold” approach to the material.
Yet King is clearly in the minority regarding the film, which not only finished at No. 2 in the Top 100 but represents one of only two adaptations of the author's work to make the cut (the other was Brian De Palma's “Carrie,” which he liked much better). Not that “The Shining's” placement was a surprise; the film is regularly cited as one of the greatest horror movies of all time by contemporary critics, and its incredible influence on the public imagination was fascinatingly chronicled in Rodney Ascher's recent documentary “Room 237,” which delves into the numerous conspiracy-like interpretations of the film by obsessive fans (King wasn't particularly fond of that movie either, by the way).
King certainly isn't the only one out there who dislikes “The Shining,” but his negative assessment of the film is also impossible to unwind from his closeness to the material, which he once described as a “confession” of malice towards his own children (taboo feelings he harbored as a young father). It makes sense, then, that Kubrick's undeniably clinical approach would draw the author's scorn.
Still, it's hard to argue with a No. 2 finish. Maybe he should give it another try?