|This is an endearing tale of a man and his love of bourbon, right?|
Jack (Jack Nicholson) is an aspiring writer looking for a change, so he takes a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. The hotel's staff leaves for about five months out of the year because the area receives so much snow that the hotel is effectively isolated from humanity. Of course, they might take time off because the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground, has ghosts, and a previous winter caretaker had gone insane and murdered his family in the hotel; po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Did the killer caretaker go crazy from cabin fever? Nobody knows. But why shouldn't Jack bring his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), with for five months of quality family time?
|It's worse --- as caretaker, Jack has to clean this up|
Oh, man, I needed a movie like this. The horror movies I've been reviewing this month (with the exception of Thirst) have been fairly cut and dry with their direction; either the directors were competent or they were not. Stanley Kubrick is, of course, more than just competent --- the man was an artist. Enjoying his technical prowess with the camera, his use of color and sound, not to mention the great performance by Jack Nicholson, was a treat after so many bad slasher pics. Right from the opening scene, we get a gorgeous series of helicopter shots, showing Jack's car absolutely dwarfed and completely surrounded by untamed nature; not only is that pretty to look at and unlike almost anything else you will see in a horror movie, but it's symbolic. Hell, yeah! That's what I've been missing from my cinematic diet recently!
|Art + axe-wielding maniac = can't miss movie|
Kubrick's direction is fantastic, but it would have been just an empty technical exercise without the effort of Jack Nicholson. Nicholson, once again, takes a pretty standard role (an alcoholic writer going crazy) and makes him charming and frightening at the same time.
|...and this is his "charming" face|
|I hate mouth breathers|
|Lesson: kids are stupid|
|Trauma = Acting|
As much as I enjoyed The Shining this time --- it went from "pretty good" in my mind to "effing great" --- it is occasionally uneven. First and foremost, this is a long horror movie. I understand that it takes time to set the mood just right, but damn it's long for what it is. Perhaps more irritating for many people is how the movie doesn't tie up its loose ends.
- What was with Grady having two first names?
- Was Jack a reincarnation of a former Overlook employee, or was he absorbed by the evil hotel?
- Is this a story of a haunting, or simply a man going insane?
- Why did Jack seem to lose the ability to communicate as the film progressed?
|Sometimes, all you need is a friend to set things straight for you|
I'm so glad I took the time to re-watch The Shining this month. It's not necessarily one of those movies that you immediately acknowledge as a classic (as evidenced by its lukewarm initial reception), but there are a lot of layers here and it is fun to see how Kubrick tries to frighten audiences. The movie is too long and the non-Nicholson cast is mediocre if you're being generous, but the film makes up for its deficiencies in other ways. This is a horror movie with almost no violence, and yet it is one of the most creepy, claustrophobic films you will ever see.
I have a few side notes to add. Is it strange that I laughed out loud when this image flashed on the screen?
I have actually visited the place that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. It's not as creepy as the Overlook (the movie was filmed elsewhere), but it is kind of cool to see how closely the film conveys some of the rooms in the building. Oh, and the Stanley has a TV channel that plays The Shining on a continuous loop, which is pretty cool.
And I can't review The Shining without making a single reference to The Simpsons. For my money, this is their best "Treehouse of Horror" episode ever.