Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is considered to be one of the scariest movies in horror history. It also routinely appears on lists of the best films of all time. Everyone loves the film, except for the one person whose opinion really matters: the author of the original book, Stephen King. From the moment Kubrick's film was released in 1980, King began voicing his disapproval, and in 1997, he finally did something about it.
King convinced ABC to air a remake of The Shining, written by King himself and directed by Mick Garris, who also directed the miniseries adaptation of King's The Stand. When The Shining TV series was released in '97, horror fans were perplexed. The three-episode miniseries definitely infused the story with King’s voice, but perhaps not for the better.
Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of The Shining is certainly different from King's original 1977 book. Kubrick took King's concept of a failed author in a haunted hotel and ran with it, but not in a direction King appreciated. The author has repeatedly made his distaste for the film clear, telling IndieWire in 2016:
I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it. In that sense, when it opened, a lot of the reviews weren’t very favorable and I was one of those reviewers. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much.
By the '90s, King was two decades into a career full of hits, and ABC was regularly producing successful miniseries versions of his books, so when he decided to readapt The Shining and do it the way he thought it should be done, few were surprised.
One of the most important pieces of The Shining is the Overlook Hotel, the imposing structure which draws its targets deeper into its bowels, driving them mad in the harsh Colorado winter. King was inspired to write about a haunted hotel when he and his family stayed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO.
King returned to the Stanley for the 1997 rendition of the story and used it as the actual set. Director Mick Garris shot some interiors on a sound stage in Denver, but much of the series was actually filmed inside the hotel, including the New Year’s Eve scene where Jack Torrance walks through a ghostly party.
At 275 minutes, The Shining miniseries covers practically every piece of minutiae from King’s book. The first episode doesn’t even provide any scares, opting instead for nearly two hours of character building. Before the release of the miniseries, Garris told Fangoria that he wanted to make something for King fans who felt that Kubrick strayed too far from the source material:
I’m not making a film to be compared to another film; I’m making one that I believe stands on its own. For people who like the book, who might have been disappointed in Kubrick’s version - this is very faithful to the book, and hopefully they will respond to it... I don’t look at this as a remake of the movie; I look at this as doing the book.
Not everything in the 1997 Shining is a disaster. Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay have some great moments of pathos, and there are several good scares. But one element of the series is truly surprising: the inclusion of King as "Gage Creed," the spectral bandleader at the haunted Overlook Hotel.
He appears when Jack traipses through a party attended by the hotel's ghosts. The music is provided by a big band orchestrated by King, who's in full pancake makeup with a pointy mustache and slicked-back hair. Throughout the scene, he grins for the camera, gets on his hands and knees to bark like a dog, and generally hams it up to the nth degree.
His character's name is that of one of Pet Sematary's pivotal characters, though given the events of that King story, the connection is hardly intuitive. The bandleader doesn't even need a name, making the choice even more mysterious.