Evil's Lurking . . . and It's Got Jack in Stephen King's 'Shining' -- a Pressure-Popping Remake That Scares off Any Ghosts from the Movie

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Byline: Ted Cox

Usually, I dismiss titles like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" or "Jane Austen's Emma" for the blatant attempts to ride the back of a famous author that they are. But "Stephen King's The Shining" is the exception that proves the rule.

King himself reclaims his famous 1977 novel in a new three-part, six-hour miniseries beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday on WLS Channel 7. He is the executive producer and lone screenwriter on the project, which seems intended to repair the damage done by Stanley Kubrick's 1980 movie version.

Over the years, King has been a frequent critic of the movie. For one thing, Kubrick substituted mood and atmosphere for suspense, and urged an over-the-top performance out of Jack Nicholson and a shrinking-violet act out of Shelley Duvall. King has never been known for taut writing - his books sprawl like a petulant teenager - but in Kubrick's hands the plot to "The Shining" was twisted and muddled. He dragged the character of Halloran, the ESP-endowed cook, thousands of miles only to kill him off as a sacrifice.

Directed by Mick Garris, who previously handled the miniseries version of King's novel "The Stand," the new "Shining" shares many stylistic touches with Kubrick's version - the slow-moving camera, low to the ground, and the use of wide-angle lenses to make the interiors of the Overlook Hotel seem claustrophobic, especially the hallways. But otherwise they are worlds apart.

The six-hour "Shining" moves at a bookish pace that is truly suspenseful. The pressure mounts slowly through both Sunday's opening segment and Monday's second part. The third and final section, which airs Thursday (all at 8 p.m.), drops much of the suspense in favor of a clumsy (but action-packed!) climax. By then, however, the average viewer will either be sucked in for good or not, and King aficionados will want to stick around in any case to catch his cameo in the finale.

The new "Shining" also benefits from the more moderate lead performances by Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay as Jack and Wendy Torrance, the couple overseeing the Overlook during its long and isolated winter in the Rockies, along with their son Danny (the cheeky, bucktoothed and terminally vulnerable Courtland Mead).

Most horror movies hold one of two viewpoints on the nature of evil: either it is an external force that can attack anyone ("Halloween," "Twin Peaks" and Kubrick's "Shining") or it comes from within the individual ("Psycho" and Freddy Krueger's dream weaver in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films). …