Shine On (The Shining, 1980)

The_Shining_PosterThe Torrence family is struggling. Jack is trying to stay sober and be a better husband and father, Wendy does not trust her husband and their son Danny seems to be having trouble coping with reality.

To this end, Jack, a hopeful author takes a job as the winter caretaker at the Overlook hotel.  He and his family will live there, alone with no access to alcohol or people. Jack is informed that a previous caretaker, Grady, went nuts and butchered his family and killed himself. But several months with little to do but write his great American novel is too good to pass up.  And so he takes the job and the family arrives on the day everyone else leaves.

It is here that we the audience learn that Danny is a special child, in a way his doctors could not understand.  During their tour, they are introduced to Hallorann. He instantly senses a connection to Danny and the two are able to communicate telepathically. He warns Danny to stay out of certain places.  Especially Room 237.

As the winter progresses, Wendy and Danny are trying their best to make the world they are in work out as normal as can be. But Jack seems to be struggling.  As he seems to face insurmountable writers block, the stress begins to wear on him.  And that is when the ghosts start to reach out.

From the opening shot of the film, as we fly through mountains looking down on the road leading to the overlook, Kubrick infuses his shots with a slight discomfort early on.  There is a presence, even in the early times, a menace, in how the film looks, the angles, the perspective, the motion.

As Nicholson’s Jack Torrance devolves into a madness he is seduced by the ghosts of the Overlook, who seem intent on destroying Jack, Wendy and little Danny. Wendy on the other hand is trying to hold it together, but starts to realizing she may not be able to save her entire family from the darkness around them.

The Shining is a terrific film that has earned its status as one of the great horror films. However… it is not without flaws.

There are times when Danny Llloyd’s scared face gets almost comical.  But more so, as an adaption of the King novel?  It is a failure. King’s book is about a man trying to to be a good father, he is not a scary man…he is broken and trying to put it all back together. He loves Wendy and Danny and wants to do right by them.  This is what makes it so tragic when he is consumed by the hotel.  Wendy is a strong woman who is able to confront Jack. In the film? She is meek and so scared of conflict.

But more so? Nicholson’s Jack Torrance is a little over the edge on day one. When we meet him, he seems like the switch has already flipped…before the Overlook ever has him. It works in the film. But it is not the Shining I read and loved. It is something else entirely.  And so, If I view it as an adaption of that story? I think I kind of hate it. But if I just view it as a Kubrick film? Well, it is amazing.

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