The Shining (1980)


After a crazy con season, it is back to movie reviewing.  I got to see Stanley Kubrick’s classic, “The Shining” on the big screen. My local bow tie cinema is showing a series of Turner Classic Movies, and with Halloween looming, a few friends and I met up.

Why there were so few people in the theater, I will never know. Either way, I was armed with the blanket I started knitting at B-Fest and ready to see one of Kubrick’s shorter films, and one of my favorites.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about movie adaptations of books. Movie adaptations of Stephen King books in particular tend to disappoint. I liked the 1994 TV miniseries adaptation of “The Stand” a great deal. I think that the miniseries format allowed for more details from the books that would be left out of a film adaptation. I understand that not every little nuance can or should reach the silver screen, but holy shitsnacks, Pet Semetary, both a favorite novel and Ramones song, made for a horrific movie I have yet to brace myself enough to review.

While I found the novel version of “The Shining” compelling, it did get a little drawn out, both when I read it at 14 and for the second time years later. Stanley Kubrick films tended to run long as well, to a point where the succinct quality of the film became a post movie joke among us. Think about it-it really is one of the short ones.

This is interesting in light of how long the book was to me.

The story takes place at the Overlook Hotel, a high end and isolated manse of an inn built many years ago on a burial ground. A former schoolteacher and aspiring novelist, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a caretaker position for the time that the inn would be closed, the nastiest part of the winter when guests and other staff would be sent out. Torrance agrees to the position for the peace and quiet needed to work on a novel, but is warned of the isolation and how the last caretaker went mad and violently murdered his wife and children before committing suicide.

Torrance, with a smile I would see later in his Joker performance in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” states that his wife would get a kick out of the story as she is a “horror addict.”

One doesn’t get that impression as the demure Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duval) moves in with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who experiences psychic episodes and speaks to imaginary friend, Tony. If anything, Wendy is defending Jack’s drunken episodes, abusiveness and up until the climax walking on eggshells with Jack, all the while taking care of Danny and his episodes alongside her own isolation and visions once the viewer realizes what’s really going on with the hotel….

One could contend that the film shows  the eventual breakdown of Jack’s mental state down to the iconic scene where he breaks down a door with the ax yelling, “Heeeere’s Johnny” stemmed from being alone in a giant hotel that screamed the decades called and they want their brightly patterned carpets and gold ballrooms back. The viewer could also contend that while Jack claimed he wasn’t drinking since an incident where he became irritated with his son and dislocated his shoulder, he probably snuck a drink here and there when the family wasn’t looking, only to break when faced with a hotel where the manager took away the booze for insurance reasons. The point of the story was that the hotel itself, built on a burial ground, possessing inhabitants in the worst way, but some critics felt that the viewer didn’t really see that, and it was just a case of abusive Jack becoming insane from isolation, writer’s block and delirium tremens. I wonder about that. There were shots where I could have sworn the expansive, and brightly gaudy hotel seemed to move. I thought the carpet patterns were going to jump out at me along with the kool aid blood that gushed from the elevators.

All in all, this is a fantastic film with chilling performances from the cast and a nasty reminder of how we shouldn’t be too isolated for too long, even in a storm. I remember when a nasty snowstorm hit a few years back. The city was shut down for days. The university where I work called me to tell me that it was closed, a rare occurrence. As the snow piled in front of my front door higher and higher and I ran out of coffee, I got a little stir crazy, happy when the roads cleared up just enough for me to take a walk downtown. If I were caught in a “Shining” storm, I’d have knitted who only knows what in my cabin fever.

As mentioned before, I took some knitting with me. I didn’t do a lot of work with the B-Fest blanket since B-Fest, but to recap:

By the time “The Shining” was over……


Now, with more stripes!

I wonder what the pastel monstrosity will be by B-Fest 2017.


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