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If you've been following along with this project, you know I've had an interesting track record with Stanley Kubrick, who seems to have had more movies on this list than any other director not named Hitchcock. Project-wise, the only one I've really liked is A Clockwork Orange. All the others have been between "eh" to "Oh God, Dear God, Kill Me Now." So which end of the spectrum did this one fall under?
Based on the Stephen King novel, The Shining tells us the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer who takes up the job as caretaker of a hotel during its off season. Along with him is his meek wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny learns from the cook, Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), that he has what he called the shining, a psychic ability. And this ability gives him deadly visions of both the hotel's past and its future. Meanwhile, Jack starts going crazy, as the evils of the hotel begin taking over his sanity.
Visually, the movie reminded me very much of A Clockwork Orange. There were numerous colors at work, making it a very visually pleasing film. But juxtaposed against that were purposeful uncomfortable camera angles, tight corridors, and long takes. It was such a fascinating camera style that I didn't often want to take my eyes off the screen, just due to the fact I wanted to know what Kubrick was going to do next with the camera and the colors. The soundtrack worked well hand-in-hand with the visuals to add to the creepy and uncomfortable style.
Of the four primary roles, 2 of them were excellent, and 2 were somewhat questionable. Nicholson was having a ball with the role, and this is probably one of my favorite performances of his. My favorite in the movie, though, had to be Scatman Crothers. First of all, that's one of the coolest names ever. Second, his character was fun and interesting to watch, and I loved when he was on screen. Then there's the boy, who I can't make up my mind if he was good or bad. I look at scenes halfway in where he goes back and forth between himself and Tony and see excellence. But then I look at his reactions to freaky stuff and have to try not to laugh. The faces he makes are ridiculous and unintentionally funny. Finally, we have Shelley Duvall, and I'm left wondering about the character and her casting. For the way the character was written in the film, Duvall was a great choice... despite seeming out of place either way. I just had trouble going along with her character and her in the movie in general, but I'm not sure if that was more her fault of the script.
So speaking of writing, let's start with the wife. From what I've read up on with the differences between the novel and the film (as I haven't read the novel, but heard it's much different), all the things I questioned or had issue with in the movie turned out to be some kind of major change from the book version. Wendy, for instance, is a much stronger female character in the book, but her film version is just meek and never really pulls past that. She becomes protective and fighting for survival at the end, but always stays in a scared defensive rather than moving into a tough offensive. I think the fate of Scatman Crothers' (I do love that name) reminded me a bit too much of a similar character in Misery. I honestly had no major problem with all the weirdness and ambiguity, but there was one thing that bugged me--and again, I've heard it's done better in the novel. Jack's transition to crazy just kind of... happens in the movie. It's not gradual. It's just one minute he's sane and the next he's kinda dropped off the deep end. Don't get me wrong... his evolution of insanity is gradual. He moves from a 1 to a 10 on the crazy scale. But if you were to take that same scale and put sane as 1 and minimally insane as 10, he jumps from like a 4 to a 10 with no middle ground.
I didn't pick up on this while watching, but I read something after-the-fact stating something along the lines of how Jack is talking about violence being OK because it was on TV, early on in the movie... but at the end, after he gets hit in the head, he speaks in almost nothing by TV quotes. I thought that was rather clever and made me like it even more.
There's a lot to love in this movie... so I do. Despite all the negative I've stated, none of it really bothered me too much. I greatly enjoyed the film and do feel that, as of right now, it's edged past A Clockwork Orange into my favorite spot from the man. I don't think it's an absolutely perfect movie, but it's an incredibly well made one and a thoroughly entertaining and creepy one. I think the visual style mixed with the soundtrack is what hooked me the most (similar with Orange). So don't worry all of you who worried about what I'd think of this one. I think it's safe to say I quite enjoyed it.