That was my feeling after seeing the film. While it has been praised up and down and Kubrick is considered a filmmaking genius, I had never seen his version of The Shining, although I had read Stephen King's book and watched the TV-movie adaptation. Kubrick's version is considered a horror classic but I just didn't feel it. No matter how much creepy music, jump cuts, or shots of a manically grinning Jack Nicholson, I didn't feel any suspense or unease.
King has stated that "There's a lot to like about it. But it's a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery - the only thing you can't do is drive it anywhere." And I have to say I agree with him. While the visuals are outstanding and it is a technically brilliant film, the story, the horror that makes a horror movie is absent.
One of King's disagreements with the film was the total elimination of Jack Torrance's alcoholism (a very personal subject for King since he was an alcoholic as well) and the destruction of the family unit. In the book, Jack is basically a good guy. He did some bad things in the past (dislocating his son's shoulder in a fit of drunken anger) but he is on the rise. He is desperate to lift himself and he is mending. That makes his descent into madness even more terrifying. At first, readers wonder if it is indeed the isolation and emptiness getting to him, but it later becomes an internal struggle between him and the Overlook. The hotel sees his dark soul and Jack tries to fight back, but is ultimately too weak to overcome the hotel's evilness. This touches upon two scary situations: there is darkness in everyone, and if the father turns against the family, who is there to protect them?
Kubrick's version of Wendy seemed like a woman on the verge of a breakdown from the very first scene. Where is the tension of her watching her husband become crazy? It isn't there. King's Wendy was a woman who had a carefree life finally having to face ugly and terrifying decisions. Kubrick's looked like she had already seen horrible stuff.
Kubrick cut out the heart of the book, and that heart is what made it scary. The film isn't a total waste, and like I said is a visual treat. But it is a beautiful car with no engine.