Horror Movie Podcast Ep. 138: Winter With Stephen King – Part 1: The Shining (1980) and Misery (1990)

HMP138 StephenKing Winter

It’s cold out there, so why not snuggle up with Horror Movie Podcast, Episode 138 and the creepiest cuddliest of horror icons, Stephen King? Back in August we brought you a survey of the films adapted from King’s work with our 2-Part series, The Horror of Stephen King. Earlier in the Summer, we’d sunk our teeth into Cujo during our Man’s Best Fiend – Horror Pets episode. And this past September we spent some quality time with Pennywise the Dancing Clown when we took a look at Creepy Killer Clowns in horror cinema with an “It vs It” episode. Now, we warm the cockles of your icy heart with two classic wintry tales from King films in Part 1 of our 2-Part series, Winter With Stephen King. Jay of the Dead, Wolfman Josh and Dr. Shock welcome the host of the Movie Moments Podcast, William Rowan Jr. (aka Kill Bill Kill aka Rowan the Destroyer aka William Solo Jr) to discuss Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990). We hope you’ll come in and stay forever and ever and ever.

Horror Movie Podcast is a bi-weekly show that’s released every other Friday. If you’d like to support our show, please subscribe to our podcast free in iTunes, and leave us a review! And remember, we love getting your voicemails, so call in with more recommendations and comments at this number: (801) 382-8789 Thanks for listening to Horror Movie Podcast, where we’re Dead Serious About Horror Movies.


I. Introduction
— Welcome guest Kill Bill Kill (aka Rowan the Destroyer)
— Check out the Movie Moments Podcast
— Dave’s news
— Agenda for this episode

[ 0:13:54 ] II. Feature Review: THE SHINING (1980)
(based on the novel from 1977)
Jay of the Dead = 10 ( Must-see / Masterpiece / Buy it! )
Wolfman Josh = 10 ( Buy it! )
Dr. Shock = 10 ( Masterpiece / Buy it! )
William Rowan the Destroyer = 10 ( Masterpiece / Buy it! )

The Shining Jack Torrance
Kubrick Burning Set

[ 1:33:12 ] III. Feature Review: MISERY (1990)
(based on the novel from 1987)
Jay of the Dead = 9.5 ( Must-see / Buy it! )
Wolfman Josh = 10 ( Buy it! )
Dr. Shock = 9 ( Buy it! )
William Rowan the Destroyer = 9 ( Must-see / Buy it! )

Paul Sheldon Snow
Rob Reiner Misery

IV. Wrap-Up / Plugs / Ending
— Thank you to The Gray Man for the posters!

JOIN US FRIDAY AFTER NEXT ON HMP: Episode 139 (a Frankensteinian episode)

NOTE FOR NEWCOMERS: If you love this podcast, you can find all of our previous episode here on the website, with direct links to our themed episodes and franchise reviews on the sidebar. There are also 36 episodes of two other great podcasts that precede this one. Just scroll back through our archives, or use the links in the sidebar.


Hear more from William:
Movie Moments Podcast
On Twitter: @MovieMomentsPod
The Sci-Fi Podcast

Jay recommends: LORE podcast Ep. 10: Steam & Gas

Follow Dr. Shock on Letterboxd: Letterboxd.com/DcoShockHMP

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Jay of the Dead’s links:
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Wolfman Josh’s links:
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Josh covers the Universal Monsters, new and classic, on UniversalMonstersCast.com
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Josh covers streaming online movies on MovieStreamCast.com
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Dr. Shock’s links:
Dave writes daily movie review on DVDinfatuation.com
Follow Dave on Twitter @DVDinfatuation
Like Dave’s DVD Infatuation, now on Facebook
Dave covers the Universal Monsters, new and classic, on UniversalMonstersCast.com
Follow @MonstersCast on Twitter
Dave covers Western movies on the We Deal in Lead podcast
Dave appears on another horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

Dr. Walking Dead’s links:
Order Kyle’s new book! The Written Dead: Essays on the Literary Zombie
Order Kyle’s previous books American Zombie GothicHow Zombies Conquered Popular Culture, and Triumph of The Walking Dead
Follow Kyle on Twitter @DrWalkingDead

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Thanks for listening, and join us again Friday after next for HORROR MOVIE PODCAST!

72 thoughts on “Horror Movie Podcast Ep. 138: Winter With Stephen King – Part 1: The Shining (1980) and Misery (1990)

  1. Great episode, but I have to admit I am confused to why there was still so much attention to not giving “spoilers”, especially while discussing these two films in particular. I ultimately understand Jay’s reasoning when it comes to movies that have been released in the last few years, even if I personally would love more “spoiler sections” at the end of some reviews, but I think when discussing films that are this old it would be nice to have a more personal approach from the hosts.
    Okay, sure, there are probably some listeners that still haven’t gotten around to seeing these movies, but I would certainly think that the percentage is very low. Also, I am only guessing that the listeners that haven’t yet seen said films are mostly part of the youngest demographic. They are a generation that is well versed in the podcast world and I think are no strangers to pausing a podcast, watching the film, and coming back to the episode (if that’s even a concern). I’m sadly now in my forties and I do it all the time, including HMP on occasion.

    My long-winded point is that I don’t think I am alone in wanting a more in-depth review of a classic film. Especially one that has been constantly discussed everywhere for the last few decades. In other words, I want to know what the hosts’ favorite scenes are and why. I want to know if there were particular scenes that someone didn’t care for. What scenes scared you the most?, etc. But without “spoilers” that is impossible.

    Hopefully that didn’t come off too critical because I still enjoyed the conversation and insight, as I always do. Regardless, I hope that maybe in the future ‘we’ can be less concerned with “spoilers” when it comes to discussing the classics.

    • Sounds like you’d enjoy the Movie Moments Podcast, a spoiler-filled podcast where each host picks a favorite moment from the film they are reviewing and then tells the audience why they picked it.

      I take your general point about wanting even deeper coverage. Honestly, I’d have loved to spend three more hours talking about The Shining, but that’s just not the format of the show. I don’t think the other guys would’ve agreed to that.

      Still, I think this was a pretty in-depth review. We did spoil some things (and gave a couple of spoiler warnings throughout), but more importantly, we covered a lot of ground. For me … including more spoilers would not have changed the way I talked about the film at all. The only thing that could have improved the review from my perspective is spending more time.

      Spoilers are a touchy subject because everyone has a different view on how they should be handled. You and I are exact opposites. I think the older a film is, the less chance there is that people have seen it. And I’m much more concerned about spoiling classics than any other film (including new releases) because classics are ostensibly great film-going experiences. If I spoil The Bye Bye Man or I Was a Teenage Wereskunk, nobody is going to lose sleep over it. I’m not ruining anyone’s day. But if I spoil someone’s first experience with Night of the Living Dead, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

      So we just try to avoid spoilers whenever possible out of respect for the cinema and our audience, but we still try to get pretty in-depth. There are other podcasts out there (The Resurrection of Zombie 7 is one) that go through a film scene-by scene and cover every plot point. That’s just not us.

      I promise you that if we ever feel as though there is something we just can’t cover properly that we really want to, we either give a brief spoiler warning or we record a wholly separate spoiler section. We haven’t done the latter as much as we probably should, but I’d be down with doing more of that and will try to keep it in mind going forward … but when we can say everything we want to say about a film without getting into spoilers, I really feel as though we’ve accomplished something. I’m proud of that.

      It’s a worthy discussion to have, but this is kind of a weird week to have it because we have broad spoiler warnings up top and did spoil some things. We also talked about each of these films for a long time.

      One possible solution I’d like to see to this is doing more commentaries as a group. Then we can assume spoilers and actually just go through, scene by scene.

      Personally, I think what we do is far more interesting than that, if I’m allowed to say that. It’s certainly more interesting to me as the one having the conversation.

      • Well said, Josh. I completely understand, and I do agree with the reasons you give. I am a little curious how many listeners are actually concerned about The Shining spoilers. Yet I know that if even there is just one person of concern, then that’s all that matters in the end. However, I do hope that maybe there can be more spoiler sections at the end of such films in the future.

        I guess I’m mostly being a little selfish, but I swear I’m not trying to be. I actually do listen to other podcasts that spoil films, but the honest truth is I have been listening to HMP from pretty much the beginning, so for me it is more about hearing Jay, Dave, and of course yourself talk about those specific details because your podcast holds a special place in my heart. It’s kinda like having best friends who don’t know I even exist.

        I hope you realize I wasn’t trying to stir the pot, so to say. The conversations were still good, and regardless what you do I will always be listening.

        Also, as a proud patron, I am definitely all for more commentaries. Maybe make it an annual October treat??

        • No, I didn’t think you were stirring the pot. It’s definitely something I’d like to do more of, the separate spoiler sections for the films that warrant it. I think we’ve just become accustomed to not spoiling and trying to get out all of our points in that way that we sometimes forget to talk spoilers, even when we want to. Gotta form a new habit.

          I like the idea of an annual Halloween season commentary!

      • Wolfman, you make a great point about spoilers. Personally, I love that HMP has such a strict no-spoilers (unless plenty of warning is given) policy. I agree that just because a film is older or a “classic” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about it being spoiled. I’ve had the endings of classic books and movies spoiled for me before and it always makes me upset, and, I feel, diminishes my enjoyment of the work.

        I don’t actually know of many other horror movie podcasts that DON’T spoil movies, old or new. Faculty of Horror, Padded Room, Resurrection of Zombie 7…all good shows, but they go into such detail that it’s nearly impossible to listen to even a little bit of their episodes without getting a reveal ruined. So if I haven’t seen the movie covered, I tend to just not listen to that episode. Even if I end up watching the movie later, chances are I don’t even remember that a podcast I’m subscribed to covered it. And unless it’s a newer release I’m stoked to see, typically I don’t stop a podcast until I watch the movie, then return to it.

        I stopped listening to Bloody Good Horror because of spoilers. They cover mostly new releases, and they’re supposed to have a spoiler-free start, but it was never delineated very clearly. Sometimes they’d give a one second warning, and I’d get the ending ruined before I even had the chance to reach for the stop button.

    • Hey Brian “Bashe”,

      I totally forgot about not spoiling when I was guesting on this episode, which is not normal for me because I usually have to remind myself many times not to accidentally spoil movies. I’m pretty sure I did a lot of spoiler talk.

      I think you and Josh are both correct. You want to listen to a conversation about the full scope of the film, exploring all aspects of the plot, story, characters and so forth. That makes perfect sense to me. That’s literally what I did every day in college to get my degree in filmmaking. I had to break down and analyze every aspect (spoilers included) of the best and worst films ever made, so I could better understand the craft of filmmaking and better execute what I wanted to create.

      It really is hard to please everyone. They made a choice that works for them and makes them happy… what else can anyone do? Whatever you are in the mood for, someone out there is offering that sort of thing.

      Josh recommended you head over to my podcast at http://moviemomentspodcast.com for a spoiler filled experience. What is ironic about that is that, YES, my podcast might contain spoilers, but we are not necessarily even reviewing the movie we are talking about. We laser focus on ONE moment from a movie to talk about. It’s the exact opposite of exploring all aspects of the plot, story, characters and so forth. My goal is to better explore how there are very specific moments in a film that seem to stay with each of us, and how often we carry those moments with us for the rest of our lives, it’s like they become a part of us in some way. I love exploring why each guest is having some kind of emotional experience about that moment and how wonderful that experience really is.

      • Thanks for the reply, William. I appreciate it very much. As far as checking out your podcast, I am way ahead of you my friend. You will being hearing from me very soon! And no worries, it’s all positive.

  2. I am looking forward to listening this tomorrow while preparing lectures!

    I got to say, I just finished watching The Bad Batch and A Girl Walks Alone at Night. I feel like an alien or something, since both of these have gotten such high praise here and elsewhere. A Girl Walks Alone was almost great, with the cinematography and the old school vampire movie nods, but the pacing and long drawn out nature of some scenes was causing me to fall asleep. The Bad Batch kept me awake, but traded in that for a nonsensical setting, unlikable characters without consistent motivations, and a poorly strung together plot. Please someone tell me I am not crazy to have these views! 😛

    • You’re defintely not crazy. I disagree with you, but you’re not crazy. Both of these films are art films. They’re not attempting (or are even interested in) conventional storytelling and that can be confusing or off-putting if you’re not used to it or expecting it. I absolutely loved both, but I can see why someone wouldn’t if they were expecting a traditional narrative arc and something just surface-level entertaining. These are experimental art instillations. Super interesting ones at that, imo. Inspired by horror films, acid westerns and the filmmaker’s own unique background … an English born, culturally American Iranian, living in the California desert. Not for everyone. I thought we were clear in our reviews just how outside-the box-these films were, but I sincerely apologize if you feel we lead you astray.

      • oh you don’t need to apologize.

        Usually I “get” reviews…if something is well reviewed in general, at least if its genre, I usually watch them and also enjoy/appreciate them in some way. that is why The Bad Batch is such a weird outlier for me. I think its the first movie in a long time that I have watched and had such a visceral negative action to, in opposition to everyone else who had viewed it.

        • Well, I always feel bad when someone doesn’t enjoy a recommendation I’ve made. Hate wasting someone else’s money. But I also try to clearly describe the experience because everyone has different tastes.

          Have you seen a lot of acid-westerns? I feel like The Bad Batch is one of the more sane examples I’ve seen and if you compare it to its acid-western influences like El Topo (1970) or Straight to Hell (1987), you can clearly see where this film is coming from and what it’s striving for. It’s just a totally different approach to storytelling, but I think TBB nails it.

          • Honestly no…I think this is the first I have heard of the acid-western subgenre, but then Westerns are not like a genre I am super into

    • Haven’t seen GWHAAN, but I definitely feel the same way about The Bad Batch. Really not interested in the characters.

  3. Doc, I agree with not finalizing top 10 lists until Oscar Sunday; I do the same. The Top 10 lists I submitted for the year end episodes are already obsolete.

    January and February winter movie binges are the best.

  4. A few notes for anyone planning on watching along for Part 2 of our “Winter with The King” coverage … 1. It’s not our next show. We’re not totally sure when we’re going to get to it. 2. Dreamcatcher is currently on Netflix (at least in the U.S.) so it’s a great time to catch up with it. 3. Storm of the Century is a 3-parter and over 4 hours in total, so give yourself plenty of time to watch it.

    • Storm of the Century seems to be a tough one to track down. Looks like the DVD is around $6 or so used on Amazon. Hoping to maybe come across it at a Wal Mart or something in the near future.

      • For awhile it was in the Walmart bargain bin for $4.99 with six other films, but that was a couple of years ago. We actually gave away a couple of those on the show. I’m pretty sure it’s also on YouTube if you can’t find it elsewhere.

  5. Has anyone else seen Mom and Dad yet? I rented it this weekend, and I’m not sure how I felt about it overall. I thought it was a times very enjoyable and wacky, but I honestly thought it could have been way wackier and over the top (especially with Nic Cage in the cast), and in turn could have been a pretty amazing horror film. I still give it a generous 7 out of 10, not great but I think it is definitely worth checking out at some point. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how great this might have been in the right hands.

    • I am vaguely interested it this but it looks like it may be too much comedy for me; I’m not a fan of horror comedy as a rule.

      Was it overly comedic?

      • It’s comedic, but not to the level of a straight up comedy. It basically tries to play it serious for the most part. I would say ‘dark’ comedy? The thing is, for me, most of the comedy comes from the over-the-top Nicolas Cage performance, which is exactly what I wanted from this movie in the first place. However, even though the ‘crazy’ Nic Cage is present, I wish there was more of him to be honest. If you are truly turned off by horror comedies, this might not be your bag, but it certainly isn’t playing for constant laughs. Like I said, it’s got great potential, that inevitably was squandered, but I definitely think it is worth checking out in the near future when it goes to Netflix or something like that. At the same time, if you are willing to spend some money you could do worse.
        I hope that helps, Cary :)

    • I saw the director of THE BATTERY (that lo-fi indie zombie film we really liked) raving about MOM & DAD on Twitter. I had never heard of it until then, but was planning on checking it out.

  6. Loving the discussion of the genius and insanity of directors in the first part of the episode. It’s always fascinated me how zealous artists can get about perfecting particular works, down to the smallest details, like Kubrick did in The Shining. Nice factoid about how many of Nicholson’s shots were the 26th or 27th take. Hadn’t known about that. That requires serious dedication on everyone’s part. My heart goes out to Shelly Duvall for what she had to go through with Kubrick.

    It seems like female actors get more emotionally traumatized by filmmakers than male actors. I’m thinking of what Hitchcock did to many of his leading women. It always makes me feel somewhat guilty about enjoying the movies that come from such experiences. And although I’m somewhat leery of promoting the idea that creative genius has to be born of suffering, it certainly seems that way often in film.

  7. Yeah I think Kubrick and Hitchcock, if they were directing movies today and still acted like they did back in the day, would be rightfully drummed out of Hollywood.

  8. Really enjoyed this episode. If The Shining had leaned more toward a man’s descent into madness despite his best efforts it would be closer to King’s vision. But I think he’d still hate the movie :)
    The Shining is a fine movie with a great atmosphere of creepiness and dread. However, I find Jack scarier than the Hotel. While I thoroughly enjoy the performance of “here’s Johnny”, what scared me into sleeping with the lights on were certain scenes in the novel. These harken back to childhood fears of the dark and the unseen but imagined (the fire hose, the hedge animals, the snow tunnel, the lady in the room).
    The novel and the movie are two different animals. I recommend that people experience both.

  9. Finally got to watch this yesterday…great podcast, although a reminder I need to watch Misery again. I remember liking it but it’s probably been a decade at least since I have seen it.

    Looking forward to “Storm of the Century”. I have never actually seen this movie, but for some reason me and my high school friends used to regularly quote the line “Born in sin, come on in…”, which is a bizarre line to latch onto for a thing none of us watched.

  10. Great episode guys. I loved the interplay between Dave and Jay. I actually laughed out loud sitting at my desk preparing student lessons while listening and my colleagues were wondering why, lol. I agree that the Shining is a 10 (yes, I believe in numbers but only for my own purposes so I remember because I watch so many movies). One of my major criteria for a 10 is, if the movie is on tv and despite the fact you have seen it too many times to count, you still stop and watch it again. The Shining is one of those films for me. No matter where in the story it is I stop and watch (Fletch is another of those movies for me, which I am curious what those on the panel think of that, lol). I believe the opinion brought up that the fact it was top notch production, top quality acting, and an underrated soundtrack adds to its enjoyment. As horror fans we are so used to overlooking certain aspects of films that it is nice to have a true theater experience when watching.
    I saw Misery when I was in grade 10 when it came out and remember thinking it was a great mystery/survival horror and I still believe it to this day. A similar theme in that it was a quality production and was nice to enjoy as a horror fan. That parallel to crazy fans and the lack of anonymity have haunted King for years and he profoundly displayed this in this film. I did always like the sheriff and is one of the best supporting characters in a film I have seen in any film. He should get together with the crew in Fargo and create their own force lol. This is a movie all movie fans, regardless of their favourite genre should watch.
    I like the idea of episodes of random classic years as mentioned in the episode. It may give a new perspective on films from other eras and discover films some of us may not have seen or known. Another suggestion may be an episode/episodes on the video nasties, where the panel chooses 2 of their favourite films from the list and reviews them. Just a thought. Keep up the good work!

  11. I will admit, it wasn’t meant as a suck up move, but the posters were there and I knew JotD would appreciate and I had his address. Dave Dr. Shock and Wildman, PM your addresses, you just never know what cool horror items cross my path.
    Thank you for the shout out. You guys rock.
    Excellent episode with many highlights on two stellar films.

    • I’ve only ever seen The Shining and I imagine that goes for all of us on the show. I actually only heard about the shorter European cut for the first time while preparing for this podcast episode. I’d be very curious to see what was cut. Having heard that he actually cut 31 minutes from the US version, I imagine that it is a much different viewing experience.

  12. Oscar nominations announced today!!!!

    “Get Out” – Best Picture

    Jordan Peele – Best Director and Best Original Screenplay

    Daniel Kaluuya – Best Actor

    How awesome that??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Very cool! Here’s hoping it walks away with at least one Oscar.

      Up until yesterday, I thought it would be the odds-on favorite for Best Original Screenplay. That’s usually the Oscar version of the “consolation prize” (when a filmmaker, especially a “newbie” to the Academy Awards process, is nominated for both Best Director and Best Screenplay, they’ll win for their screenplay and someone more “experienced” will get the director’s Oscar).

      But now I’m not so sure. Martin McDonagh was snubbed for Best Director for THREE BILLBOARDS, so he might win for his screenplay, and Greta Gerwig was ALSO given dual nominations for Original Screenplay and directing, and the voters seem to love LADY BIRD (what’s more, she’s also new to the awards process).

      I hate to say it, but the Academy might just take a “be happy you were nominated” approach to GET OUT. I hope I’m wrong, though

      • I agree completely, Doc.
        No matter what, this is a huge deal for horror in the sense that I know several ‘casual’ movie goers that will watch “Get Out” now solely based on its nomination for Best Picture. No joke, I have already heard people who don’t even like horror talking about this movie again like it is some new discovery. Without that nomination they would never have even considered it. It’s so fantastic that so many people went to see that film this year to begin with, and now it is going to get an extra push in viewership because it is getting the appreciation it absolutely deserves!!!
        I couldn’t be happier!!!!

  13. Listening to conversations about The Shining are always really interesting for me because . . . I don’t really understand the massive praise for this film. I’ve seen The Shining numerous times over the years (I have purposefully revisited it several times as I’ve gotten older) to see if my opinion of it changes and so far, nothing.

    I really just don’t get the hype and why this film is so often considered a masterpiece.

    I find the acting and dialogue to be odd and awkward with several scenes being unnecessarily weird with the most notable example being the bear costume scene.

    This isn’t exclusive to The Shining for me however; Kubrick’s work just has never clicked with me. I can understand why others appreciate his library but it’s always just been too otherworldly for me to really enjoy.

    Maybe that’s my issue? His films are more of an experience than entertainment?

    Hearing people heap praise on it always makes me feel odd as a horror fan because I feel like I *should* love this movie, but I really loved hearing you all break down why you all enjoy it so much.

    • That’s interesting, Cary. I defintely have films like that for me where I don’t connect the way the majority of the audience does. And we all know that Jay has those moments. Haha.

      Regarding the bear costume, there is a whole set of conspiracy theories that the bear symbolism relates to Jack’s abuse (physical and sexual) of Danny. As with most Kubrick conspiracies, it feels both ridiculously reaching and totally plausible, due to the filmmaker’s meticulous approach to the craft.

      If you want to go down that rabbit hole, here is a decent video. I don’t love the author/commentator of this video. I’ve watched a few of his videos and he’s very dismissive of (and not super logical about) theories that he doesn’t like such as the moon landing conspiracy (which is very strongly supported by the film, IMO), but he does a pretty good job with the theories that he does like. You’ll see that he real reaches from time to time, but the net result of his work is at least interesting, if not totally convincing.


      There were so many things like this that I’d have liked to discuss, but there just wasn’t time.

  14. Pingback: Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 274: The Greatest Showman (2017) and The Post (2018) |

  15. You guys… aww… the feels. I love you all so very much. Thanks so much for this episode. The Shining is my all time favorite horror movie, and can you believe it… you all taught me lots of things about it I didn’t know about yet! I didn’t think that was possible! Josh was whipping out those Kubrick factoids faster than I could process them. I feel like I can just about die happy having gotten the HMP episode on The Shining finally! How much do I have to pay you three to record me a “The Shining” commentary track? Seriously, I want it! I’m already going to have this review playing on repeat. Thanks so much!

  16. * * *

    Hey. I’m a pretty new listener to your podcast, but I like what I’ve listened to so far. I really enjoyed this one, particularly because The Shining is a film that has continued to grow on me over the years. But I wanted to say something in regards to discussions of Stephen King filmic adaptations in general; something that I have come to notice but don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone else actually articulate it.

    And what it is, is this: although it may seem counterintuitive, Stephen King’s writing is extremely ill-suited for adaptation into film. One of the reasons it does seem counterintuitive is that book-to-film-to-book transitions in the horror genre are not just the norm, they are practically The Law. Some novels are written so cinematically that one suspects the author had the movie in mind the entire time it was being written.

    In contrast to that, we have Stephen King’s writing. His books have simple, straightforward premises and plots: a rabid dog terrorizes a mother and child; a vampire moves into town and turns everybody; an unstable former alcoholic takes a job as a caretaker with his wife and son at an isolated, haunted hotel. But densely interwoven in that are a multitude of inner monologues and stream-of-consciousness thinking, each according to its character, varied and complex.

    King’s writing is dependent on his ability to take us deep into the shadowy heart of each character’s thoughts, feelings, ideas. We experience the world as they do. All those troubled psyches, seething with fears, neuroses, and worse, can only be as real as they are to us because we get to see them from the inside out. In great, excruciating detail. And that is something that film just cannot do.

    So, Stephen King is right when he says that Kubrick’s Jack Torrance is nothing like Stephen King’s. But part of the reason for that, is that you can’t put Stephen King’s Jack Torrance into a film. Stephen King’s Jack Torrance is an artist who is in terror that he is balancing on the precipice of failure; a man with a violent temper and a propensity for alcohol – traits he inherited from his abusive, rage-filled father – who also deeply loves his wife and child, and fears that he may never have the strength to completely overcome the self-destructive aspects of his personality that would tear his family apart, fears that as a husband and a father he will be as much a failure as his own unloved and unloving dad.

    And the only reason we know all that about him, is because Stephen King takes us deeply into Torrance’s soul; we know how he thinks, we know why he is so angry, we know what he is afraid of. It is King’s forte, that he can do that for us. In a book.

    It’s no mystery that some of the very worst King book-to-film adaptations were written by King himself, who by all rights should have just as much trouble as anybody else trying to translate his kind of writing into a screenplay. It just doesn’t work. Which is one reason why some of the most successful adaptations of King are the stories that stay pretty much in the head of one character alone, so the screenplay can focus on bringing that character and the world as they see it to life: Stand By Me; Shawshank Redemption; Misery; Dolores Claiborne; all stories that as literature had a singular voice; one that is more easily translatable to film.

    A lot of people like the adaptations, and there are varying degrees of opinion as to how good they are, but I would venture to say that all of them had to deal with the problem that the real heart and soul of his characters comes through their inner thoughts, the very things that a movie cannot be dependent upon to bring a character to life.

    Oh, and also a thought about Misery. I don’t think it was about Stephen King feeling like he couldn’t get away from what everybody expected of him. Again; this is only in the book, because the movie had to be a straightforward thriller, but the main character has just written a book that he hopes will break him out of his typecasting, only to find, when forced to bring Misery back to life and make the effort to make it all make sense, that the new Misery book is actually the best writing he’s ever done, and he just needed a truly brutal muse to bring back his original love of writing to show him that it’s not the genre after all, it’s the love that you put into it.

    Ta da.

    * * *

    • Some good points there, LilyRose (and welcome to the madhouse). My favorite part of King’s writing has always been the “internal” parts. There’s a chapter in Christine that is basically “guy sits worrying about his friend.” Cujo gives us segments (some of my favorite parts of the book) from the dog’s perspective, letting us see the growing confusing, irritability, and rage as the poor boy goes rabid. Several characters in the TV adaptation of The Stand just don’t make a lot of sense without all of the backstory and internal voice.

    • hhhmm…I went through a phase of heavy Stephen King reading back some time ago, and I would have to say I don’t know if I agree with the thesis of this argument. If you want to say that novel/literature adaptations are problematic in general because of there inability to put the viewer into the heads of the main characters, I could agree with that sentiment. But I just don’t personally think that this criticism is something unique to King, and King’s novels are far far easier to adapt than many fiction writers.

      • Kings work is definitely easier to adapt than a lot of other fiction in certain ways (and his adaptability varies considerably throughout his oeuvre) but I do think that LilyRose’s point definitely goes some-way to explaining the dissatisfaction that a lot of King’s readers (and in the case of The Shinning, King himself) have felt with the filmed adaptations of his work. His work is extremely dense and detailed and cluttered with internalised thoughts and memories that add a great deal of colour and context to his characters. He’s easier to adapt than someone more abstract like Faulkner or Richard Brautigan or Thomas Ligotti but his works are often full blown tapestries of myriad characters and their personal experiences and attitudes, so I feel like it’s harder to adapt him and maintain what might be described as “the heart” of the work because the book-to-film process involves having to sift through so much material and decide what is essential, not only to the story but also the mood and nature of the characters. And everyone is going to have a different idea of what elements ultimately constitute “the heart” of the work. A lot of that stuff is bound to be the more internalised and personal moments that are harder to transition to the medium of cinema. I think a good example of a writer who I’d imagine being much easier to adapt would be Cormac McCarthy, whose work is much leaner and more austere.

        But I do think that there are loads of great King adaptations out there. But there are also quite a few bad ones and very few that totally do the source material justice, so I don’t know.

        • I agree that there are a lot of great adaptations. I realized that when we did or King coverage last year. For some reason, I had always felt like King movies were generally poorly made. But when you look at the data, there are a lot of incredible films by a lot of top directors.

      • It’s a good point that the the problems of adaptation aren’t unique to King, TMadC, but what about the frequency of King adaptations, as compared to other authors. He must be the most adapted writer of all time when it comes to filmic adaptation, with the possible exception of Shakespeare. Maybe we just notice it more because his films are turned so often.

        Out of curiosity, I just did a quick Google search for “most adapted author” and, without doing any digging or additional research to validate it, I got this list:

        Stephen King: 34
        Nicholas Sparks: 11
        John le Carré: 10
        Ian McEwan: 10
        John Grisham: 9
        J.K. Rowling: 9
        Dean Koontz: 8
        Clive Barker: 8

        That’s a significant margin from some major authors.

    • Love it. I agree with you LilyRose. Having just recently had the experience of watching It (1990), going straight into reading the novel and then going straight into the theater to watch It (2017), I was really struck by the difficulty of the task. While many novels are difficult to condense into the necessarily condensed cinematic format, King really seems to wander in his writing. As you rightly pointed out, he really goes deep into a character’s mind. He follows different flights of fancy (stream of consciousness was a nice way of putting it) and though they usually connect to character or story or plot eventually, he doesn’t make the screenwriter’s job very easy.

      I like your take on Misery, too. That’s interesting. I still think feeling pigeon-holed is defintely something King has struggled with over the years, but I love the idea of this dark muse.

  17. Great… now I have to go watch The Shining again. Yeah, not a faithful adaptation, but I got freaked out just listening to the podcast and remembering scenes. I don’t know how well this plays for others, but Danny’s open-mouthed silent screaming just… geez, I just did a full-body shudder typing it.

    They’ve never seen the movie, but my two daughters (age 5 and 7 at the time) were in the room when I was talking with my wife about the twins in The Shining, so they immediately went and changed into matching outfits, came back and stood in front of me holding hands, and said “Come play with us, Daddy, for ever and ever and ever.” Couple a little monsters, creeping their poor father out like that. :)

    I’ve always liked the ambiguity that King put into many of his books. It hasn’t always worked (Cujo and some kind of evil spirit in a closet?), but when he does it well it increases the scariness. I’d connect The Shining to Christine. The car in Christine is either haunted by the ghost of the previous owner, or has a psychic residue from the previous owner’s malignant nastiness, or is possessed by an ancient evil spirit. The Overlook is either haunted by Native American graveyard spirits, or haunted by the ghosts of murderers and victims, or has a psychic residue from lots of evil stuff (“burnt toast”), or is itself a malign spirit, or Jack is going bonkers… or my personal favorite: all of the above. King draws a little bit from the Lovecraft well, with fear coming from the unexplained.

    • Yeah, I like the “all of the above.” And I love how “Shining” is present in so much of King’s work. I think it has been infused into the DNA of horror cinema.

      I was thinking about the difference between how Jack and Danny use their shine and respond to the shine of the Overlook and I started making parallels to The Devil’s Candy and how Jesse and Ray are also responding very differently to the forces at work in that home.

  18. Josh, I guess I’ll have to track down your Cleanflix documentary to get a better handle on your perspective, because right now I’m 100% on the “editors” side of this. When I was a little booger, I grew up with movies that were edited for television, and those were my gateway drug for films that I wasn’t ready for in full (Terminator, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, etc). We taped them from TV broadcasts, and I wore the tapes out rewatching and rewatching, and then when I was mature enough to handle more intense content, I bought the “real” versions. What on earth is wrong with that? And now that I have kids, what’s wrong with wanting the same kind of introduction for them?

    Specific example: I showed my kids the Ghostbusters cartoon, and they loved it. I was in a bookstore and found out that they made a Golden Books version of Ghostbusters. So now my 4-year-old talks about Gozer and terror dogs and got a Slimer toy for Christmas. I want to show them the film, but I’m not ready for my 4-year-old to be walking around calling people “d**kless” and “prehistoric b***h.” If Sony was to issue an “edited for television” version of the blu-ray, I’d happily give them my money. And it’s hardly censorship, because the “real” edition is still out there and nobody’s taking that away. So are my kids just going to have to wait because I have certain ideas about age-appropriate language, lest we soil the purity of the film by doing exactly what TV broadcasters already did for years?

    • … and behold, I google “Ghostbusters clean version,” and discover that Sony does in fact offer an edited version for download. Well now I know what I’m doing next.

    • It’s a long story, but in short: we used to refer to it as “censorship with a small c” and the reasons I feel free to call it censorship are myriad. The edits were not authorized by the artists or studio (unlike the TV edits). The changes were made for strictly religious reasons and were as positioned as a moral issue by the editors. They were being sold as replacements for the originals, the originals were not offered. Etc. it had a very banned books vibe, experiencing it in person.

      My experience was much like your own. I grew up with a ragged VHS copy of The Lost Boys tapped from TV and you better believe that I grabbed a Cleanflix copy of The Lost Boys for my kids that my son has watched at least 3 times.

      I think you’d be disappointed with the film if you were hoping to explore this debate, however. The film is not ultimately about the issue, but rather the culture that spawned the industry and the specific hipocracy of one of the dealers. It’s also a no budget film I often refer to as “my student film.”

  19. Wel don’t get me wrong with this comment but can you stop talking about the Shining for the next 5 years or so. I think think it’s a great movie and I really like the movie but when you put all the podcast moments together on which you talked about you get a 24 hour long podcast so maybe that’s enough for the next 5 years.

    • Whaaat?! I challenge the veracity of this claim.

      The good news for you is that this was our official Feature Review of The Shining, so we have no plans to talk about it in-depth in the near future on the podcast proper—if at all. There is the chance that we’ll do the commentary we’ve discussed above.

      But come on, Gerbrand! We’ve never done a full review of this film on the podcast. We didn’t talk about much during our Stephen King overview because we knew we were going to cover it here. We’ve defintely mentioned it on the show before (probably during discussions of children in peril). I know it must have come up when we did our Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time and probably during Haunted Houses, but that was all the way back in Episodes 1 & 2, five years ago!

      I’m guessing we’ve talked about The Shining for under 4 hours on the podcast which, considering the hundreds of hours or podcasting we’ve done and considering it is one of horror’s very few universally recognized masterpieces, I’d say that’s not over-doing it. If I’m missing something, let me know.

  20. Pingback: Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 275: I, Tonya (2018) and Hostiles (2018) and Den of Thieves (2018) and 12 Strong (2018) |

  21. Thank you for breaking down ‘The Shining’, my favorite horror movie of all time. Well, my favorite might be ‘The Thing.’ Tough call. They’re so different, it almost doesn’t bear comparing the two….

    Anyway, I was intrigued by the speculation/conversation surrounding different theories of what exactly is going on in The Overlook. Is Jack going mad? Are the ghosts real? Are any of our characters reliable subjects? I’m glad that Josh pointed to the scene in which Jack is let out of the freezer. For me, this is the moment that proves that the spirits have breached that line between the living and the dead, and are directly interacting with Jack and his family. However, one of my OTHER favorite theories is that it is in fact Danny, and not Grady, who lets Jack out of the freezer. I can’t remember where I first heard this one, and I’m sure it’s all over the internet (apologies if one of the hosts here suggested it as well, and that’s where it came from). This tickles my noodle because it suggests that Danny knows that he and Wendy can never be safe as long as Jack lives, so he breaks him out in order to lead him through the hedge maze and to his demise. “Tony told me to do it….”

    One note on Room 237, as it is one of my favorite documentaries:
    I love this movie. I understand the reservations that come with watching this film, as a couple of the theories and talking points seem completely fabricated, and a product of the speaker’s own imagination. However, I have sat so many times in a college English classroom, specifically for my thesis classes, and endured endless academic “interpretations” on the motivations of certain authors and poets. To me, ‘Room 237’ is as much an indictment of criticism as it is a film about one. The fun of the movie is listening to how absurd the theories become, upheld with only the smallest shred of evidence or conviction. It’s the fun in forgetting that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    • Fascinating interpretation of Room 237. I had never thought of that. I love your take on Danny being the one who unlocked the door, as well. I don’t know if I buy it. I think the hotel is trying to kill Danny. But I like the theory! Glad you enjoyed the episode, King Ghidorah. Thanks for the great comments.

  22. Although rare, I love it whenever Dr. Shock goes on a big rant, whether it’s that MPN ep about the poster (Comic?) of the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, complaining about the MPAA rating system, or now his annoyance with Jay and the general rating system. haha

  23. Just an F.Y.I. for anyone interested. Apparently “The Cloverfield Paradox” was just released today on Netflix. I had heard something about Netflix picking it up, but was shocked to see it pop up so soon. I am both excited and nervous to watch it. I’m sure hoping that the change from theatrical release to streaming isn’t a sign of it’s quality. Crossing my fingers and wishing for the best. I’m definitely watching it tonight.

    • We started getting flooded with messages last night that it was premiering right after the Super Bowl. I think all of the network hosts have seen it and we have VERY different takes on whether it is good or bad. Expect some battles. I know it is being covered on the very next episodes of Movie Podcast Weekly and Movie Stream Cast (both recording tonight) and possible on the next episodes of The Sci-Fi Podcast and Geek Cast Live (both recording on Wednesday). For Horror Movie Podcast, we’ll probably mention it, but refer people to our other shows until Cloverfield 4 (currently titled “Overlord”) releases. Some are saying it might actually release this year. Then, we’ll add it to the to-do list for Franchise Reviews.

  24. Why that bear b.j. is so spooky:

    The pillow Danny lies on while being inspected by the doctor in his apartment bedroom near the beginning is a yellow faced light brown bear nearly identical to the demented doppelganger giving oral sex to the geriatric in the hotel toward the end. Simultaneously perverting both Wendy’s subconscious identity of her son Danny, and our own.

    Cinematic manipulation at this level has never been matched.

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