The Shining: Boiler maintenance

Faithful to the book,
the mini-series version of Stephen King’s The Shining had their boiler explode taking the Overlook Hotel with it.  Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, avoided the plot element of maintaining the boilers completely.  Here we specifically take a look how  a sophisticated hotel is allowed to be easily destroyed.

One popular criticism is how The Overlook would be so reckless leaving a defective and dangerous boiler in operation.  A literal, ticking time bomb at the mercy of its caretaker.  It’s a long stretch of the imagination.  Stanley Kubrick’s vision of psychological terror side-stepped and avoided the engineering calamity.   He didn’t need and most likely didn’t want it.

The mini-series can be easily dismissed as blindly following the book.  But did it work?  One forgiving approach is realizing this isn’t the real world.  It’s a fabricated universe where telepathy and ghosts exist and recovering alcoholics trip into a job that pays them over the winter at the price of isolation.  This is how suspension of disbelief works.  If you can accept a little, you can accept a little more.  The world of The Overlook is a twisted and macabre.  As expected, this fictional world comes with certain laws of physics.   With King’s novel, this comes rather easily.  But books are almost always better.

With television and film, I think it was harder on fans of the novel.  While we’re curious for a literal translation of the book, wondering if others parallel our vision.  Somethings, are best unseen.    Execution matters.  The mini-series overplays its hand with an overly extended explosion.  You’d think the mini-series went “Hollywood” and added explosions where none existed in the book.

Stephen King’s version of Mr. Ullman is profit driven yet cheap.  He demands excellence without spending too much.  You can almost hear Ullman rejecting pleas to fix the boiler.    Yet, after watching the film and reading the book, the plot to maintain and dump the boilers doesn’t work in the mini-series.  The hotel is too historic, too opulent, to explode like a model dollhouse.  It can’t be, all it takes to destroy a dreadful place is blowing it up like dynamite?

Kubrick had it right.  Show just enough.   The mother and son escapes, the evil spirits continue to linger behind.


Kubrick’s boilers.  Needing the most minimal attention, they don’t make a sound.

If you’re interested reading more about the boilers, click here.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining
Stephen King’s The Shining TV mini-series


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