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The Shining

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Stephen King allegedly hated this version. However, to avoid getting sued, he chose the "no comment" attitude. He got his chance to re-make the film "his" way in 1998, in the ABC miniseries version, starring Steven Webber and Rebecca DeMorney.

-Thanks to Chris Peterson

More Trivia from The Shining
Recovering alcoholic and struggling writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson), attends an interview for the job of winter caretaker, at the remote Overlook Hotel, located in the rockies of Colorado and built ominously on an old Indian burial site.

Torrance conducts himself as a calm, charming man and at the conclusion of his successful interview, before being asked whether he wishes to accept the job, he is told by the manager (Nelson), about a horrifying incident that occurred at the hotel some years before with a previous caretaker Grady. Affected by the isolation and loneliness, he had murdered his two young daughters with an axe, shot his wife and then took the gun to his own head... "It's been known to, er, give some people second thoughts about the job." informs the manager.

Unperturbed, Jack assures his perspective employers that peace and isolation are exactly what he and his family need, especially if he is to finish his writing project.

Meanwhile, back at the Torrance apartment, son Danny (Lloyd) visualizes the former caretakers murdered daughters, this startling image is quickly followed by one of hotel elevator doors opening, to unleash a torrent of blood.

The Torrance family arrives at The Overlook as the last remaining guests and staff are vacating the premises for the season. Whilst his parents are being shown around, Danny is left with the hotel chef Halloran (Crothers) who realises that the child shares his extra sensory perception 'shining' which makes him aware of the hotel's violent past. With this in mind, the chef warns him never to enter Room 237.

One month later, as the winter snowstorms isolate the hotel, Jack's metamorphosis from affectionate father to murderous madman begins. The first example of a splinter developing in Jack's psyche, is when wife Wendy (Duvall) is severely berated for disturbing his typing. Jack's temper grows ever shorter as he becomes so frustrated with his lack of creativity that his grip on sanity becomes ever more tenuous with each passing day. Danny's "shinings" are coming to him with greater terrifying frequency, as the presence of the hotel ghosts becomes evermore active with both father and son.

The malevolence within the hotel walls and corridors seems to emanate with greater presence as the winter deepens... and is this really the first time that Jack has stayed at the Overlook before? The answer lies in a ghostly time warp of madness and murder.

Following on from the success of A Clockwork Orange, Warner Bros. had offered Kubrick many prestigious properties including William Peter Blatty's novel of diabolical possession, The Exorcist, but Warners had wanted him to work with Arthur Penn & Mike Nichols on the project. Of course Kubrick wasn't interested in such a collaboration, so turned down the film, but the subsequent box office success and Oscar for Best Director probably rankled Kubrick, who was determined to prove that he could also make a successful big studio horror film.

The film he was to eventually make was another prestigious property owned by Warner Bros., Stephen Kings best selling novel The Shining.

A major theme running through all of Kubrick's films is the timeless nature of man's proclivity towards evil, and The Shining is an explicit performance of this. The result is the first epic horror film, a movie that is to other horror movies what Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey was to other space movies. In The Shining, he choose not to follow all the supernatural machinery from the book, but instead on its effect on human beings.

One of Kubrick's main aims in pre-production was to identify what 'really' frightened people in the 20th Century. It was established that most people's idea of horror would be a catastrophic incident within the family unit as opposed to any demons and monsters of the traditional horror genre. Hence the film itself downplays the evil nature of the hotel and centres instead on the character of Jack Torrance.

While a number of horror films achieve their effectiveness through psychological suggestion and shocks, The Shining takes an entirely different approach of horror through sensory accretion. Using ponderous music, errie cinematography and haunting symbolism, Kubrick built up scenes so that the viewer is expecting a jump out of your seat shock at the culmination of a scene, but this is continually avoided.

In fact, the film progresses at an almost funereal pace until the most unexpected innocuous scene produces the greatest moments of horror and indeed humour. Wendy's discovery of Jack's manuscript in essence sums up the approach of the film - just one page is a little strange, but in context with the whole work, it's simply terrifying.

Another memorable scene is between Torrance and Grady (Stone) in the men's room. Grady the butler informs 'in the nicest possible way', as he wipes spilt advocaat from Torrance's jacket... "your son is a very wilful boy... a very naughty boy [pause], if I may be so bold sir"... "Did you know, Mr. Torrance that your son is attempting to bring an outside party into this situation"... at this stage of the film, the viewer could not possible be prepared for the next line... which is delivered in a slow deliberate manner, as Grady informs that the outside party is a "nigg*r cook". The gravity of the delivery is colossal, especially as the orator is a mild mannered bumbling British butler dressed in tails and white gloves.

Grady goes on to inform that it is time that Torrance 'corrected' his wife and wilful son just as he had 'corrected' his wife and two daughters. The scene is superb as it begins with it's origins in light humour, Torrance talking about changing for dinner and the merits of "the fish and goose soiree" and ends with the gentile butler using the most offensive racial language, while inspiring a father to murder his wife and only child.

The viewer finds themself amused, bemused then horrified with the switch of a word in a sentence.... brilliant!

Verdict?

The film operates like a near-death experience- the full impact doesn't register until hours later when the viewer thinks back on the film and suddenly begins to shiver at how it all locks together. 'The Shining' is one of the top horror movies of the 80's and indeed of all time.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Brilliant visceral, modern horror directed by a master and acted with brilliance.

Weaknesses? The pace may just be too slow for some.

Our rating: 9.5 out of 10


Review Written by Stuart Fitzgerald:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Stuart Fitzgerald
The Shining