Friday, November 20, 2009

The Shining (1980)

Eva told me before I decided to dust off my copy of The Shining and attempt a review of it that it's a pretty ambitious task. I'm pretty sure now that after watching it about one and a half times and doing some research that ambitious might be an understatement. So as this doesn't end up like the treacherous book-report style of my last review, I'll leave out the plot details. Not only to keep the length short, but also because of the novel. When I first got into Stephen King books about... almost ten years ago, the second book I read was The Shining. And... believe it or not I'd actually never seen the whole 1980 version of the film, nor any version for that matter. I'd only been familiar with the popular references to the film in popular culture; things like "Here's Johnny" and "redrum".

Anyway, I sped through the book rather quickly and at this point in time I cannot recall a lot of it. I do remember thinking once I'd finished the book that I would be pretty astonished if that book was successfully fit into a 2 hour and 20 minute movie. Well.... it wasn't really. On the DVD itself it says "Stanley Kubrick's The Shining" and that couldn't be more true. I've only watched two other Kubrick films ('Full Metal Jacket' and 'Eyes Wide Shut') and the novel aside, this film seems to meet all the 'criteria' that make a Kubrick film. I haven't studied his work excessively, but I do know that a lot of his acclaim comes from his use of new (at the time) camera angles, such as we see when Jack is trapped in the dry food storage room. Overall, the film leaves you with a rather uncomfortable feeling, a lot like those other two did the first time I'd watched them.

Because I have a tendency to go on and on about plot details that aren't neccessary to a review, I've elected to do my reviews in a more 'pros and cons' format as follows.

What I liked about The Shining:

Scatman Crothers - The character Dick Hallorann is my favorite in this movie. The kind old man and his insight on the 'shine' are really the key that unlocks the big mystery of this movie. Also I think it's funny as shit when he says "...they turned out to be completely unreliable assholes." And his winter house down in Florida looks pretty sweet.

"...a dozen jugs of black molasses, we got sixty boxes of dried milk, thirty twelve-pound bags of sugar... Now we got dried peaches, dried apricots, dried raisins and dried prunes."

Jack Torrance - Jackie must hold a record for the shortest amount of time for a character in a movie to go from 'pretty normal asshole' to 'batshit crazy'. Granted, their stay at the Overlook was quite a long and solitary one. I still think that the degree of batshit crazy that he goes is quite incredible. I found myself laughing when he fell down the staircase or when he was chopping away at the second door. "Little pigs!" The disheveled look combined with wailing an axe at a door that he honestly may have been able to kick in is a great combination. It's great for a few laughs.

The 'Caretaker' Position - Am I the only one who would so do this job? I don't think so. A whole hotel to yourself? All the goodness of a veritable bomb-shelter of food and supplies to last you for a couple years? Oh... and get fucking paid for it? I'm so in. It's the same reason why I love movies like Dawn of the Dead... a whole mall to yourself? See, in the Shining, it's better because you don't have the threat of zombie attacks. Anyway, I've always felt I had to share that. I first realized it I think when Dick Hallorann is listing off all the foods in the freezer and dry storage room. Damn!

What I didn't like about The Shining:

Wendy Fucking Torrance - Ok, I know it's sort of a horror movie, but does she have to spend the last 45 minutes of the movie screaming? I know it's a horror staple, but maybe I just can't stand her scream. And... AND... who in the holy crap-fuck taught this lady how to hold a bat? I can't stand her using both hands to hold the middle of the bat while she's being inched up the stairs by Jack. I guess I should really be happy that she isn't holding the fucker backwards... oh well.

The Novel vs. The Movie - This is one of the Stephen King books that, when 'adapted' to film, should have been given a different name. I'm trying not to ruin the novel or the movie for anyone who might not've seen/read them, but the ending of the movie is downright disappointing. If you feel this way too, read the book. Don't know why the Overlook Hotel is such a bad place? Read the book. I'm not saying don't watch the movie, but if you already have, give the book a shot. It's a hefty 600+ pages, but you'll be glad you did.

Overall, I like this movie and I could watch it a thousand times and not get bored of if, but it really is not an adaptation of the book, it's Stanley Kubrick's take on the novel. In the future I'm going to be trying to get my hands on a copy of the miniseries version of this movie, and even sooner than that I'm going to re-read the book with all the emptiness that I'm feeling after reading others' comparison of the book vs. the movie. Stay tuned for the Book and miniseries review. I'm finishing out another King novel at the moment but I do think a refresher course on The Shining is well overdue.

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