Originally Published Friday 24th October 2008
Watching The Shining has become a bittersweet experience for me in recent years. It was one of those films I remember being really scared of when I was younger, classic scenes of the creepy twins in the hallways, or the blood flowing from the elevators, or the naked chick with the rotting flesh in the bathroom, all had the power to really put the shits up me! As you may have guessed, this is no longer the case. Now, when I watch the film I get wrapped up in how Stanley Kubrick made movies and how much yer man from NCIS really does look and sound like a young Jack Nicholson, and unfortunately, how piss-poor a writer Stephen King is.
The Shining follows Jack Torrance (Nicholson) as he takes up the job of caretaker for an isolated hotel over the winter months. Each year the hotel gets snowbound so a caretaker is needed to keep an eye on the place and make sure that the rigours of the winter don’t cause excessive damage to the buildings. Jack moves in to the hotel with his wife and young son. On the first day, the day the hotel closes for the winter, the Torrance’s are given a tour. During the tour, which is given by the cook, we are told that the young Torrance has telepathic abilities and that there may be more to his imaginary friend Tony then a simple child’s game. The cook has similar powers that in his family are referred to as shining. Also, the hotel was built on an Indian burial ground. And the previous year the caretaker killed his family.
Over the course of the winter odd things start happening. Jack, who should be working on writing a book, is instead seeing ghosts and nipping off for a swift half in the haunted ballroom. The young lad flips his lid and slides into a neat psychosis complete with mirror-writing capabilities (redrum = murder backwards). After an encounter with the previous caretaker Jack decides to whack the family and goes about the task with an axe, rightly giving his missus the screaming heebie jeebies.
After some madness with an axe, Jack’s mind wasn’t the only thing that had splintered!
The Shining has some amazing scenes that are proper scary and Jack’s decent into madness is a case study in how someone comes apart and goes psycho, but for all that’s right there’s a fair bit wrong too. The story has so many elements that it’s hard to pick them apart into a cohesive set of causes and effects. Firstly, the young Torrance has telepathic abilities. Fair enough. But who’s Tony? Where did he come from and why? Also, the cook had this ability in his family. Was Jack therefore predisposed to seeing things?
Next up, the Indian burial ground. Why build the hotel there? It was off in the middle of fucking nowhere, why not build half a mile up the road? No one would have known the difference. And was that the reason why there were odd goings on in the hotel, and if so why did the phenomenon get fixed on the 1920’s? And how did the time travel element come into it, that is, how did Jack get into the 1920’s picture? I’m sure there are explanations, but I watched the film last night and I didn’t see them. That maybe because I wasn’t paying attention for them as I got so hung up on looking for Kubrick traits.
Stanley Kubrick had a giant reputation considering the shite films he made. Shining starts off with the synthesized music that was over used in Clockwork Orange and from that point on the film feels more like another film in the Kubrick series than a standalone film in its own right. That said, it is a classic of the genre, and the “here’s Johnny” bit is amazing.
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