The Shining seems to be an allegory for something without quite enough clues as to its meaning. The massacre of Native Americans, the numerological significance of the number 12, the doctrine of eternal recurrence, the perils of alcoholism, the sense of human social life as a pathetic delusion, all of these can be supported by the right observer. What can we glean from this excess of possibility? (quote from linked article above)
Other aspects of the horror are the excess of male power within the traditional family and perhaps most importantly the disconnection from reality which an imaginative person both craves and suffers from.
Somehow (IMHO) Kubrick's film encompasses these metaphors more successfully than the original text, without ever having to spell them out. The King Novel is more narrowly focussed on the metaphor of addiction.
And it's not just the breadth of the metaphor, and the way it is never fully resolved. Pandagon talks about how this metaphorical ambiguity that fuels the film leads us to dwell on a flaw perhaps in what humanity is.
The horror is always receding from view because the real question is what makes Jack sadistic, and how it’s related to whatever evil is lurking in the hotel. All attempts to name the horror fall flat, especially with all sorts of could-be red herrings floating around about debauched, party-like atmosphere that used to dominate the hotel. The best guess I can come up with is that evil is the result of power, and the debauchery is just the dressing, the playful atmosphere that gathers around unchecked sadism. And Jack, with no one around to check him, can torment his family without having booze as an excuse or stopping just at something like a broken arm. But that doesn’t answer the darkest question of all, which is why people get pleasure from the suffering of others.
I think for this reason The Shining is one of the most frightening films ever made. Like a house in a dream, the hotel is a metaphor for the mind, and in this case it has gone wrong and is dragging us all down with it.
So which do you prefer, the film or the booK?