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The Shining was a 1980 horror movie directed by Stanley Kubrick and was the adaptation of the novel of the same name by the esteemed Stephen King. To me, the film is one of the undisputed best horror films out there...even if it does deviate a lot from King's novel, and at the time it was released, the reception was more mixed with King himself being the most vocal with criticizing the film.
The film is about a failed author named Jack Torrance who decides to become the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the Rocky Mountains to use the opportunity to get some of his writing done. Except, there have been cases where previous caretakers...kind of went crazy and killed their families before killing themselves. Oh, and it turns out that his son Danny has some psychic ability that he shared with the chef Dick Halloran called "the Shining" and has an imaginary friend that lived in his mouth named Tony who manifests as his finger. As the family gets snowed in, Jacko loses his mind and tries to "correct" his family. By axing them a question.
There is plenty to admire about the film. The ominous soundtrack including the opening theme; Jack Nicholson's performance as Jack Torrance; the impending dread of the scenes that are deliberately drawn out to incite those feelings; the ambiguity of whether the Overlook Hotel was really haunted or not or if the "ghosts" were all just manifestations of the family's growing madness.
A plethora of theories has arisen as means of explaining away the more abstract themes of the film. After all, the film is heavily dissected. Some belief it to represent the toxicity of the American Dream. Others claim that it's about the genocide of the Native American tribes in the name of the Manifest Destiny/White Man's Burden. Some cite Nazi-esque symbolism in some details of the film. Some even claim it to be evidence that Kubrick helped to fake the moon landing which is...stretching at best.
There was a analyst by the name of Collative Learning that had given some of his interpretations of the film that are intriguing such as the notion that Jack was sexually abusing Danny due to the similar positions of Danny being in the bathroom brushing his teeth to the scene where Wendy spots a man in a bear costume doing...something with a man. I'll let your minds come to a conclusion on that one. The theory's interesting, but...not accepting that as my headcanon for what's going on. That and the theory also feels reaching because it relies squarely on that scene and the one where Jack was reading a Playboy magazine. Jack in unquestionably abusive...but to say he molested his son as well? No thank you. For me, the main theme of the film is the endless cycle of abuse that started with Jack, and unless the upcoming sequel to the film Doctor Sleep goes against the concept, Danny himself has the potential of becoming his father due to him becoming an alcoholic when he grew up.
Overall, the Shining is a horror masterpiece that I love watching more than once because I pick up on something new whenever I re-watch it. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel though I'm wondering how King himself would respond to it since it's clearly a sequel expanding on Kubrick's vision rather than his. True, King's hatred for the film lessened over the years, but he nevertheless does comment often that he never understood how Kubrick's version became such a beloved horror movie. Only time will tell, I guess.
I avoided watching The Shining for a long time because as a huge fan of the book I knew that many creative liberties had been taken with the source material. Now that I've seen it I am feeling conflicted.
On the one hand, the direction of this film is top-notch. The use of fixed angles and oners, unsettling shots of the hotel interior and a truly terrifying and oppressive soundtrack give the film a unique quality which deserves high praise.
The problem is all this technical brilliance is misapplied to what is supposed to be a character-driven piece. Unlike the book the characters have little substance, and apart from Nicholson (who was acting too crazy from the start) the acting is dull and wooden. Shelley Duvall is good at screaming but little else, and Danny Lloyd is emotionless and has no investment in his lines.
Additionally, the film takes such a messy approach to the source material that I wonder what those who hadn't read the book thought of it. Without some of the context a lot of the film seems like a random events plot.
This is disappointing, because a faithful adaptation using the excellent techniques on display here could have been one of my all-time favourites. (The miniseries is more faithful, but is less well-filmed.)
As it stands The Shining is expertly crafted, but could have been so much more.
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