Saturday, October 2, 2010

31 days, 31 faves: The Shining

Ahh, Jack.
Good ol' Jack Torrance. Recovering alcoholic and domestic abuser seeks new job caretaking a grand old hotel deep in the mountains...isolated yet charming, immense yet oh-so-stifling.

When The Shining reached my VCR (because yes, I'm that old), I freaked out like nobody's business. I'd read the book a few years before I saw the film, so I kind of knew what to expect. But what I got was a tour de force performance by one Jack Nicholson and a movie that would change the way I saw movies forever.

As if you didn't already know, The Shining is the story of Jack Torrance. He's just accepted a position as a winter caretaker at the gorgeous Overlook Hotel high in the Rocky Mountains and well removed from any civilization whatsoever once the snow flies. He lugs along his plain-jane wife Wendy and their "special" son (special as in gifted, not slow) and the first few weeks are sheer bliss. Running through the ridiculously creepy hedge maze, big wheels traversing the carpeted hallways, a ballroom ready for grooving the night away, and a first snow of epic proportions to enjoy.
Yeah, right.

Settling in to a regular routine of writing (because Jack gave up his teaching job to write the great American novel, apparently), Jack begins to...change. At first it's subtle. A weird look here or there, a few unkind words to the wifey while typing away on the typewriter. Crazy daydreams that plague him and cause Wendy extra worry. And as Danny's gifts start warning him that the hotel has other surprises in store, Wendy sees a shift in Jack's mood. And it all goes south from there.

It's been said (over and over again) that Stephen King isn't a fan of how Kubrick manipulated his material into a totally different entity than the book. And while I am a HUGE fan of the book (it's in my top five all-time), I am also a major fan of the (Kubrick) movie version. But I do separate them as two different stories, I have to. The differences aren't wildly dissimilar, but to be sure I don't think King meant for Jack to be bat-shit crazy just for the hell of it. In the book, it is more the alcoholism and the cabin fever that get to him, with a bit of spooky haunted hotel thrown in for good measure. In the film, holy crap - Jack's like the Mad Hatter. But it was perfectly done by Nicholson, in all his bombastic glory. Over the top? Yep. But would we have it any other way?

In addition to Nicholson, the other characters in the film version are well played indeed, from the sublime mousiness of Shelley Duvall's meek yet determined Wendy to the clueless, sweater-rockin' Danny Lloyd (Danny), whom it is said had no idea he was even acting in a movie. Well he did a damn convincing job, the little twirp. And who wasn't keen on Scatman Crothers (as beloved cook, Dick Hallorann) and Danny having some chocolate ice cream while they chat about shining and the heinous Room 237.
I have a special affection as well, for bartender extraordinaire Lloyd. He just reeks cool.

But by far, in Kubrick's masterpiece, the hotel itself is the star. So much is going on there it's nearly hard to keep track. Besides the crazy geometric carpeting, we've got bartenders who aren't really there but are pouring the Jack Daniels like there's no tomorrow, former caretakers who dish out advice on how to 'correct' children, fine-looking women who morph into the witch from Snow White, elevators that gush blood, two downright terrifying little girls who just want to play, costumed guests who are having bizarre same-sex encounters with the doors left wide open, and ax-wielding dads who quote Ed McMahon.

I seriously think The Shining is one of the most quoted horror films out there. I mean, who hasn't at some point, given a wicked grin and spouted off the signature line "Heeeeere's Johnny!!" at one time or another? My personal fave is the "Wendy....Darling...Light of my life..." speech, which never fails to amuse me on some sick level.
But there is a reason The Shining is quoted so much: it's a DAMN good film that most horror fans consider one of their favorites and stacked against other films, it is leaps and bounds above the rest.

And on that note, I leave you with images from the film. Because nearly everyone I know has seen it, appreciated it, and loves to be reminded of the terror.


Wednesday's Child said...

The Shining has had such an effect on me that I'm honestly suffering from a lifelong fear of bathtubs, because there could be a zombie lady in one. If I'm in a bathroom I pretty much have to check behind the shower curtain. :(

Zombie Mom said...

Indeed one of the very best films ever. It has a silent creepiness like no other. *crooks finger and says "redrum, redrum"*