Remember that scene in F.R.I.E.N.D.S when viewers found out that Joey got so scared while reading The Shining that he placed the book in the freezer?
Yep. I now totally get why he did that.
Because I didn’t feel like dressing up for Halloween, I thought I’d celebrate in my own way by finally reading what some people call “the scariest book in the world”: The Shining by Stephen King. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, I will forever regret that decision because this book is scary as hell. I don’t know how I even got through it, except to say that my electricity bill must have gone up because I slept with the lights on for the entire week that I was reading this book. Here’s why I NEVER should have done it:
- The setting. I have always loved hotels; there’s something about it that fulfils my need to have someone at my beck and call (read: room service), and they always seem to have the comfiest pillows. However, after reading this book, I will never quite look at hotels in the same way again.
- The isolation. Jack Torrance, the main character, is asked to be a caretaker of The Overlook Hotel while it closes for the winter season (I didn’t even know this was a thing). He brings his wife and son Danny with him and because of the weather, the roads leading to the hotel are completely blocked. I am a city girl; I’ve chosen to live in one of the busiest areas of London because I like the noise and the hustle and bustle. I cannot spend months cooped up in a massive, creepy hotel with only two other people for company. I understand a little bit why Jack slowly starts to lose it.
- The haunting. The Overlook Hotel has been around for more than 60 years and its witnessed some pretty horrible stuff: crimes of passion, crimes of greed and others. So its probably only natural that some of those ghosts will linger in the confines of the hotel. Seriously, in the future every time I enter a hotel room I will now be thinking about the person/s who have been in that room before me and what their life was like. Jeepers.
- The slow deterioration of Jack Torrance’s sanity. Poor Jack. Abused as a kid, always down on his luck, never quite catching a break…I think life had set him up to fail. It would have taken a man of extraordinary character to overcome his less-than-ideal beginnings and be able to turn his life around. Jack does not have that character. He let his history defeat him and he could never quite take full responsibility for his part in the destruction of his career, marriage and his life in general. It’s understandable why he, out of the three people in that hotel, is most susceptible to possession by malignant spirits.
- The moments of clarity. I think that this is where the book will always have an advantage over the movie adaptation. The movie is apparently scary, but the book makes more of an impact because we get a glimpse into Jack’s thought process. And he has these moments of lucidity where his love for his son comes through and it just breaks my heart. It makes the other scenes, when he goes stark raving mad, all the more horrible because we know that this man, given half a chance, would have been a good man and a good father.
- Danny Torrance. Danny has psychic abilities, what the characters in the book call ‘the shining’ and he’s able to read people’s minds, look into the future and other weird things. The kid is creepy as hell; he has these weird dreams where his imaginary friend ‘Tony’ shows him visions. He dreamt about the happenings in the hotel long before they ever moved there. Later we find out who Tony really is and we understand these visions better, and I have no words for how incredibly creepy it is. Sorry, I keep repeating that word but it was just sooooo creepy.
- REDRUM. When the reader finally finds out what REDRUM means (and I smacked myself for not getting it sooner!), you just know that the book is about to reach its inevitable conclusion and it ain’t gonna be pretty. I can almost hear a horror movie score in the background when the climax of the book played out and I swear the hair on my arms stood on end. It was very well written!
Stephen King is a master storyteller. I can’t say I’m a big fan of his writing style, I sometimes find it a bit disjointed and jarring but I can’t deny that he knows how to write a freakin’ page turner that will have you up at night hearing a voice saying ‘HEEEEEREEEEE’S JOHNNNNYYYY!’
Damn you, Stephen King. Lol