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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 341: The Shining

The Shining
Heeeeere's Shiny!

Stanley Kubrick is a director in his own category. His attention to every single minute detail is legendary. For Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick insisted on a large table in the war room be covered in green baize, despite the fact that the movie was in black and white. Malcolm Mcdowell was permanently injured from his iconic “eye” scene in A Clockwork Orange. Many people over the course of many of his films have said that Kubrick was incredibly difficult to work with and impossible to please. All of this because Kubrick had a vision for his art. Sometimes it was for the best and sometimes it was for the worst. When you combine Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick, you're bound to get something amazing.

The Shining is a 1980 horror movie adapted from the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The movie stars Jack Nicholson (Batman, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) as writer Jack Torrance and Shelley Duvall (Popeye, 3 Women) as his wife Wendy. They have a young son named Danny, whom they refer to as Doc. Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony that occasionally speaks for Danny. Jack is hired as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a grand and glorious lodging in the secluded Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The job seems fairly easily, but the owner warns Jack that isolation and cabin fever can wear on people. He also tells Jack about a former caretaker, Charles Grady, went mad during the winter of 1970 and brutally murdered his two daughters and wife before killing himself. Undisturbed by this news, Jack moves his family to the hotel for the winter. During the tour, they meet chef Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, the voice of Hong Kong Phoey) who befriends Danny. He calls him “Doc” even though he never hears Wendy call him by that name. Dick than shocks Danny by offering him ice cream telepathically. He explains that, as a child, Dick and his grandmother shared telepathic abilities that they referred to as “shining”. Other people, like Danny, have that ability and even the hotel “shines”. Danny then asks Dick if he is afraid of the hotel, specifically Room 237. He warns Danny to stay away from that room. A month passes and Jack's writing has gone nowhere. He begins a slow descent into madness, wandering around the hotel until he comes to the Gold Room and sits at the bar. There he meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd (Joe Turkel, Blade Runner, The Killing) who serves Jack and listens to him complain about his marriage. Later, a frightened Wendy finds Jack at the bar telling him that there is a crazy woman in the hotel who tried to strangle Danny. Annoyed, Jack investigates and finds Room 237 open. He finds a beautiful naked woman in the bathroom and begins to kiss her only to be horrified when she turns into a decrepit old woman. When Wendy tells Jack that she wants to take Danny away, he becomes enraged and returns to the Gold Room. It's now filled with guests and Jack meets the previous caretaker Delbert Grady (Phillip Stone, A Clockwork Orange, Thuderball). Grady informs Jack that he must “correct” his wife and son, much like how he “corrected” his own wife and daughters. He also ominously tells Jack “You've always been the caretaker. I should know sir. I've always been here.” In Florida, Dick has a “shine” from Danny that he is in trouble and travels back to Colorado. Danny, now in a strange trance, begins to refer to himself as Tony and shouts “Redrum” over and over. With Jack's violent descent into madness now complete, will Dick be able to get to the hotel in time to save Wendy and Danny?

Or maybe Mark Mcgwire will show up and hit some dingers

Kubrick's movies are always intense and The Shining is no different. While he may not have made many horror movies, just about every one of his film's can be considered haunting. The Shining is an intense, engrossing horror film that completely envelopes the audience. The horror really comes in two forms: the isolation and Jack Nicholson. The movie is over 2 hours long, requiring the audience to become completely invested in the story. It makes us feel restless and uncomfortable, mimicking Jack's own cabin fever. I don't doubt that the movies length was a conscience decision by Kubrick. Stephen King himself said he did not like the adaptation as it took away a lot of the book's supernatural elements. He also did like the choice of Jack Nicholson, seeing as how he recently won the Academy Award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest, his descent into madness was too obvious. The majority of people don't like to be alone for too long and, despite sitting in a movie theater or at home, The Shining makes you feel alone. There are also the standard horror scares thanks to Jack Nicholson's iconic performance. No one does “crazy” better than he does. Shelley Duvall's gaunt look and general mousiness can be see as an avatar for the audience's own fears and helplessness. Scatman Crothers is good as the sort-of hero despite not having a very big role.

The movie is very stylish thanks to the beautiful scenery and Kubrick's keen directorial eye. The Shining was one of the first movies to use a Stedicam. This allowed the movie long, steady shots such as following Danny on his tricycle rides through the hotel. The classic chase through the snow-covered hedge-maze was made possible thanks to the Stedicam as well. As with a lot of Kubrick's work, there are countless theories about what actually happens in the movie. I have read a few ranging from the possible (the movie is about Native American spirits) to the “huh?” (the movie is about the Holocaust). One could take the movie at face value, about a man going insane and attacking his family. Though muted, there is still a supernatural element, so perhaps it was evil spirits that caused Jack Torrance to lose his mind. Maybe he was a reincarnation of an older caretaker and given a second chance to make things right. I don't know if there's a right answer and I'll leave it up to you to decide what you think happens.

"I've always worn this sweater. ALWAYS."

The Shining is an intense watch from beginning to end. It's very long run time and bizarre events may be a bit difficult for some to endure, but it's worth the effort. The movie has a great performance from Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick shines (pun intended) as the director. The movie looks beautiful and is full of iconic scenes. There are some good scares and plenty of memorable lines. Though the movie does differ from the novel and left writer Stephen King unhappy, the movie is still highly enjoyable. Take time out of your busy schedule because The Shining deserves your full attention.


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