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The Shining

1980 horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick

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The Shining - 1980

  • Dec 30, 2008
Rating:
+3
Pros: Duvall

Cons: the talking finger & cast speech patterns

The Bottom Line:
"Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!"
~Pink Floyd



Although The Shining is considered one of the classic horror movies and there is much to love about the film, there are also some glaring negatives as well.  That certainly doesn't mean I don't like it because I've seen it a bazillion times, even though I know how it ends and all the nastiness in between.

For the unaware, The Shining is a simple little story about madness.  It centers on the lives of a small family; Jack, Wendy & Danny Torrance, and their interlude as winter caretakers at a remote hotel in Colorado.   In fact, it is so remote that it becomes completely isolated during the brutal winters in the Rocky Mountains.  A shame, really, because it would make a perfect ski lodge.

The opening scene, with Jack driving the lonely road on his way to the Overlook Hotel, would be beautiful if it were not masked by the ominous score from Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.  I thought the idea of using a VW Bug, so comparatively small in relation to the looming mountains, a brilliant move. 

Almost from the moment Jack enters the hotel for his interview, you can see a change in his demeanor.  It is like he has come home where he belongs.  On the reverse side, when we pan back to the squalid apartment in Sidewinder, with Wendy and Danny, you see practically forced optimism between the two as they await the news about whether or not Jack secured the position as winter caretaker.

The position won't be a demanding one, just general maintenance to keep the elements from overtaking the hotel during its downtime.  The demanding part would be the complete isolation from the outside world.  Under normal circumstances, with normal people, this may not be a problem, but this is far from a normal family.  Jack, a former schoolteacher, is now working on the great American novel.  Danny, his son, has an uncanny ability to ‘see' things, or as head cook Dick Hollorann calls it, he shines.  Wendy is simply neurotic. 

Once the job is secured, the family moves into the hotel.  Things immediately start to go bad, especially for Jack.  His madness escalates to incredible portions, practically feeding on itself.  At the same time, Danny sinks further and further into himself as his mind sees things others cannot.  Wendy remains neurotic.   Once the snow starts falling there is no chance for escape as insanity overtakes the inhabitants of Overlook Hotel.

The Shining was directed by Stanley Kubrick gaining 6 nominations and earning one win.  It general rating waffles around the NC-17 range.  I would assume this is for the terror factor only since there is actually only one murder shown in the movie.  Certainly there are gory flashbacks and some other erotic showings.

If anything, Shelley Duvall should have received something better than the Razzie nomination she got for this film.  Although many believe Jack Nicholson ruled the production, I think it was Duvall's completely dissolving persona that made it for me.  I don't know what they told her or if they just hyped her up on quasi gallons of espresso, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone react the way she did in this movie.  It was totally lifelike, not appearing as acting at all.  Hell, I know this is how I'd react in these situations.  Could she have been jitterier?  Maybe it was Kubrick's harsh demands that made her that way because it is said he had her do over 125 retakes of one scene in particular.

Jack Nicholson, on the other hand, could have gone the entire movie without saying a word and had the same impact.  Most of his really scary moments are delivered through expressions and looks, rather than spoken word.  Of course, his famous ‘Wendy, I'm home' and ‘Here's Johnny', were added bonuses.  He actually adlibbed the Here's Johnny segment and Kubrick, living in England, had no idea what the reference was.

Scatman Crothers played the part of fellow shiner, Dick Hallorann, giving a remarkable performance for his 70 years of age. 

Thanks to the IMDB I have finally had the one question answered that always perplexed me; changing the room number of the haunted room from room 21,7 in the book, to room 237, in the movie.  The exterior of the hotel was filmed at the Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood, Oregon, and they requested the number change fearing future guests would refuse to stay in the doomed room.  Silly people, don't they know it would have probably been one of the most requested rooms in the hotel?  We people are like that, you know.

I also found that Kubrick did not, at first, want to consider Nicholson for the role, preferring either DeNiro or Robin Williams.  However, after watching some of their work he deemed DeNiro wasn't psychotic enough while Williams was too psychotic.  Does that make Nicholson like the baby bear who was so psychotic that he was ‘just right'?  Along the same lines, Stephen King didn't want Nicholson because, I would assume, he already felt he was crazy enough.  He thought the likes of Michael Moriarty or Jon Voigt would be more believable in a role that showed the degeneration of the mind.  Seriously, has he ever watched a Jon Voigt film?  Well, maybe back then Voigt wasn't so freaky.

The things I didn't like in the film are glaring.  Danny's talking finger just wore on my nerves.  They didn't bother to use weird tactics when the focused on Hallorann and his shine, relying on eerie sounds and far off stares.  They could have even just let the ‘Tony' voice stand on its' own since we already were aware of Danny's special power.  Even that, as annoying as it was, wasn't the thing that irked me the most.

What really made me feel like fingernails on a chalkboard was the actual delivery of the lines by all the actors except Wendy's character.  She was the only one that spoke in a normal cadence, if you can call her normal.  The others all had such an extended period of time in their speech patterns.  Almost like they were reading off of cue cards and they were waiting for the words to actually be printed so they could read them.  Speech just didn't flow normally in the entire film.  I was always like ‘Come on, say it dang it'.

Other than those two little episodic developments, the balance of the movie was rather entertaining in a morose kind of way.  The solitude was made even more poignant with the size of the hotel and the emptiness.  The absence of sound really became another character in the film, especially when Danny was riding his big wheel around the halls.  All you can hear are those wheels on the tiles and hardwood floors, and then they are suddenly muffled by a section of carpeting.

As far as scare factor, it wasn't your typical horror or scary movie.  There are a few instances, mainly introduced by Nicholson, and then mostly through his facial expressions or attitude.  One particularly chilling scene was when he was locked in the food storage area and the shot is from the floor up to his face.  All you can see is his smirking mouth and those incredible eyebrows of his, along with his fingers skittering across the door surface.  

Well, one could dissect this movie until it stops snowing in the Rockies and still not cover all the bases.  It didn't quite live up to the novel, but in some cases it surpasses it because it fleshes out scenes that may have been confusing in print.  It is easy to think that the Kubrick/Nicholson version of The Shining will become a classic.  It is only King's ego that prompted him to bring it back out at a later date with different stars, so he would have tighter control on the script.  Much like the remake of Psycho, you can only hook us one time.

Thanks,
Susi

Related review: The Shining, the book release

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More The Shining (1980 movie) reviews
review by . October 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Some of the best films are the ones which provoke us to return to their often questionable realms for a second coming, not long after we've tried to - or succeeded in - absorb every last bit of information that we possibly can. Perhaps we come back because we still have questions left unanswered, or maybe we just want to experience it all again. The places that I speak of are sometimes pleasant (the beach resort of "Mr. Hulot's Holiday"), and other times …
Quick Tip by . January 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
While I still haven't chosen which Kubrick movie is my favorite, The Shining is easily one of my favorite movies ever.  Since I'm not one that's easy to scare, this movie is one of the extremely rare specimens that'll haunt me when I go to bed after watching it.  Even though all the acting is top-notch, it's Jack Nicholson that stole the show in this one because he was PERFECT as the isolated man on a descent into total madness.      Thanks to this …
review by . March 16, 2010
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An excersie in what isolation can do to the mind...
They say that sometimes when a person is isolated from other people  or things he or she is familiar  with  you start to slowly loose your mind, you start seeing things  that  aren't real, hearing voices in your head, walking nightmares. It is called Cabin Fever and In Stanley Kubrick's psychological horror thriller explores what happens when a recovering alcoholic ex-teacher (Jack Nicholson) starts to literally loose his mind   when isolated in a beautiful hotel …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
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Kubrick's classic adaption of Steven King's classic horror novel is errie and amazing to watch. Strays far from the source material in some places and drags on in scenes but it does help add to the tension of a family taking care of a mountain hotel and the father slowly going insane.
review by . November 08, 2009
Over the years Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" has become one of his most well known films, but only because either won't shut up about how it isn't close to the book at all (we hear you, and would invite you to stop reminding us now) or because people are often quick to jump up and say just how much the movie frightens them.  The "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!" moment is perhaps one of the most quoted lines in Hollywood.  As I've said before, when it comes to movies being …
review by . May 06, 2009
The Shining was Stanley Kubrick's attempt to make a bona fide horror film. Despite the fact that he has never really directed one, he was infatuated with the project. He read the novel by Stephen King and set out to recreate the novel, his own way. What we get is a cold ans sterile film that resembles the original source material some what. We get a maniacal and crazed Jack Nicholson, a doormat Shelly Duvall and a minor actor/performer Scatman Crothers a shot a some big time acting. The actors were …
review by . February 12, 2008
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Though me and my mom normally share various points of views on certain film makers, we tend to split when it comes to Stanley Kubrick. My mom says, "he's so weird." I tell her "yeah, but he's a brilliant film maker, who films visually stunning films that are also mesmerizing." To this she just shrugs and says, "I don't care, he's still weird." Though a big fan of the director, for some reason his 80's horror film, "The Shining," escaped me for the longest time. Based off the best selling book by …
review by . October 31, 2007
(4 1/2 *'s) After all these years, I hedged at the prospect of watching `The Shining`. Having seen the snippets of Jack Nicholson's skillful performance, I partly dismissed the movie. In my mind, thinking of his famous line, "Here's Johnny!" the film seemed a novelty, something entertaining in a way it wasn't intended. Between Stanley Kubrick's amazing direction and Nicholson's and Shelly Duvall's excellent performances, first impressions can be misleading. Watching `The Shining' is a real treat.   & …
review by . October 31, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Jack Nicholson is one of the world's great psycho actors     Cons: May make you paranoid     The Bottom Line: Here's Johnny! I love that.     Just what do you think of when you think of a haunted house? The stereotypical haunted house is little more than a large shack, very loosely boarded up with rotting wood, creaking floorboards and stairs, loose doors and a massive maze of codwebs. The ghosts that often haunt these places are …
review by . March 30, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
When I think of a horror movie, I think of a film that is going to scare me in some way. There doesn't have to be any gore involved, no actual acts of violence need to be shown (the greatest horror directors know that less is more), and I usually am startled at least a couple of times. I didn't find THE SHINING to be a scary movie. At times it was disturbing, but it really never was scary.The movie stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a writer who is hired to be the winter caretaker of a huge …
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A horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick based upon the bestselling novel by Stephen King.

Opening with spectacular aerial shots of a beautiful, mountainous landscape, Stanley Kubrick's horror classic THE SHINING sucks the viewer into his frightening tale with quiet, relaxing visuals--but the ominous soundtrack warns that all is not right at the gorgeous Overlook Hotel. Based on Stephen King's best-selling novel, the film stars Jack Nicholson at his eyebrow-raising best in his portrayal of Jack Torrance, a Vermont schoolteacher working at the Overlook as a winter caretaker. The glorious early-20th century resort only operates in warm weather because the snowy roads deny access in the colder months, so Jack brings his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), with him, as well as his young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who possesses some unique psychic powers. As the Torrances settle in for the long, lonely months ahead, strange, unexplainable things start occurring in the hotel--and in every scene Jack seems to be growing a little more evil and dangerous.... <br> <br> Cinematographer John Alcott (who also wo...
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