For the last movie of this year’s Horrorthon, I decided that I would review another classic and fill a void in my reviews. This is a movie that I had seen before but, as with most things in my life, I seem to have mostly forgotten by now. But I know a lot of people who love this movie. My friend Jordan says this movie is his favorite movie, if I remember correctly. And so, even though it was not requested, I decided I would get this review out of the way already, and end my Horrorthon with a bang. This movie is The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King, co-written for the screen by Diane Johnson, co-written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Joe Turkel, Philip Stone, Barry Nelson, Anne Jackson, and Lisa and Louise Burns.
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes his family – wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) – up to the Overlook Hotel to act as its caretaker for the winter, hoping it will give him time to work on his book. Undeterred by the isolation, talks of a murder/suicide of the last caretaker, and talks of the hotel being buried on an Indian burial ground, he and his family move in to get the hotel all to themselves. As everyone else is leaving, the chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), talks to Danny about their shared telepathic abilities, that he calls the “shining”, and warns him to be careful in the hotel, especially around Room 237. With everyone now gone, Jack gets to work. But too much of that and not enough play has effects on a man, or so I’m told.
I really like this movie. I wouldn’t call it my favorite movie, or even my favorite horror movie, but that’s mainly just because the pace is a little slow for my tastes. It still remains very effective, but it’s a bit of source of contention about what makes the movie scary. The movie portrays itself like a ghost story, but it’s been argued that it’s not a ghost story. It’s actually a window into Jack’s descent into madness. Personally, I say it’s both. It’s clearly more about madness that comes along with the isolation, but I found that even more disturbing. The reason I found it so disturbing was because I think I would LOVE that setting. If I could get my Xbox working up there, and possibly get some internet access, I could do that for a few months and be really bummed out that they were making me leave when my time was up. But I’m already insane, so I assume other people might not handle it that well. But this movie is also a ghost story. There’s no way Jack could’ve gotten out of the freezer if a ghost didn’t open it. That stuff all works well enough too, but it is definitely more about the madness. There was also not a whole lot to this movie that I took issue with as far as the writing is concerned. If things in the story didn’t make sense, the quality of the movie usually distracted me from them. The only one I had was the biggest one, but it would’ve stopped the whole movie from happening. How did they not notice any of the gigantic stop signs for going to this hotel? The loneliness makes people crazy, the last guy killed his wife and two kids, and this was on an Indian burial ground. That’s a trifecta of haunting. I guess it kind of makes sense because this movie happened before those things were cliché horror movie stuff. Poltergeist was still two years away to make Indian burial grounds such a big haunting device.
I think Kubrick’s direction caught my attention the most in this viewing of the movie. He really seemed to go all out with the interesting filming techniques. He had a lot of really great aerial shots and frequently went to a side-scrolling pan for walking conversations. He also used some nice jarring angles while Jack was losing his shit. Early on it was a lot of still shots watching him do something monotonous that would inevitably drive him insane, and later he would go to the more jarring angles. The first I really noticed was filming Jack from in front of him, looking up as he had his head against the freezer door as he was trying to trick Wendy into letting him out. Later, of course, is the classic “Here’s Johnny” scene. He also used sound a lot to drive the audience insane, like the first time when Hallorann communicates with Danny psychically and it’s built up to with what sounds like a tooth drill amping up. Not a whole lot of noises that will drive someone insane better than that noise. The only bad thing in the visuals of the movie was the naked old chick. That was an awful sight to behold, because she was old and naked. Also, she was supposed to be dead, so that’s bad too.
The performances in this movie are hard for me to talk about. I respect the actors in the movie and their performances, but sometimes they felt a little over the top. I guess they were going insane, so they should’ve been over the top, but it threw me off a few times. Jack Nicholson acted like an insane douche nozzle from the very beginning of the movie, but he probably should’ve been a little more normal from the beginning and slowly turned insane douche. There’s also a chance that Jack Nicholson cannot have his face and not look insane. Am I the only person that finds Shelley Duvall really attractive? I would wreck that! She spends the first part of this movie being relentlessly kind and a little naïve, and then spends the latter half of the movie screaming a lot. She perhaps went a little over the top, but I don’t know how I’d act if my husband was trying to kill me with an axe. I might scream in exactly the same way. Danny Lloyd I did not like from the very beginning of the movie. Perhaps I’m spoiled by how many quality child actors are in the business today, but this kid was not very good. He was rarely convincing, and always looked like a midget going to a Halloween party dressed as Davy Jones from the Monkees.
It’s good to end the Horrorthon with a bang. The Shining is a classic horror movie that holds up as well today as when it came out. It’s a great movie about isolation and madness, a pretty good ghost movie, and a fantastic outing for director Stanley Kubrick. The greater majority of the performances are fantastic, even if they do tread into the bombastic at times. I could see this movie not being for everyone because the slow pace in parts of the movie makes it a bit of an investment, but I think it’s worth it and everyone should see this movie at least once in their lives. The Shining gets “Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t” out of “Don’t worry, mom. I know all about cannibalism.”
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