THE SHINING - Content
For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 25, 2013
One of the more controversial — but also one of the most euduring and influential — adaptations of Stephen King's books is "The Shining" (1980, rated R), an engagingly cinematic, scary and crazy, funny and wacky, and rather frustrating tour de force by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
The frustrating part comes from elements that were changed from King's book in ways that make no sense. Two in particular seem to significantly undermine the story.
In King's book the narrative's central thrust comes from the gradual descent into madness by Jack Torrance, a failed writer who accepts a caretaker job at a large, remote, ghost-inhabited hotel in the Rocky Mountains, where he and his wife (Shelley Duvall) and their young son (Danny Lloyd) will be snowed in and cut off from civilization all winter. But as played by Jack Nicholson, Torrance seems pretty nuts from the get-go. And in the book, the story unfolds from young Danny's point of view.
Also, his Danny has a special telepathic gift that connects with Jack Hallorann, a chef at the hotel played by Scatman Crothers and a significant character in the book, but whose story toward the end of the movie veers off in such a way that it proves to be a major misstep.
Kubrick was a great filmmaker, there's no disputing that. Many of his films are classics of the first order: "Paths of Glory" (1957), "Spartacus" (1960), "Lolita" (1962), "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964), "2001 — A Space Odyssey" (1968) — although from this point on he courted controversy as much as cinematic art with "Barry Lyndon" (1975), "Full Metal Jacket" (1987) and "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999).
And, truthfully, he probably wasn't really suited to the pulp horror of "The Shining" and especially its supernatural aspects, specifically the "evil" inherent in the fictional Overlook Hotel. Even Stephen King is on record as disliking the film, though his opinion has softened over the years.
Still, having said all this, there is much to enjoy in "The Shining." Kubrick manages to bring an atmosphere of dread and an innate spookiness to the great behemoth hotel and its eerie emptiness, and there are many tracking shots using the then-new invention the Steadicam that bring on the chills, with a number of unforgettable images — the little boy's riding through the halls on his Big Wheel, the flood of blood gushing out of the elevator and, of course, Nicholson's campy, over-the-top performance ("Heeeres's Johnny!").
So if you're looking for some Halloween fare in a theater this season, you could do worse than Cinemark's revival of "The Shining," showing in several theaters around Utah at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 27), and 2 and 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Oct. 30).