Monday, October 24, 2011

The Shining

I was so happy to watch The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1980 today. I've been in the mood for horror movies, and there really is nothing more satisfying than a good creepy movie on a cool fall night. I got the Kubrick Blu-ray box set for my birthday, and I was so excited to finally get to watch one of them and check out the quality! It looked really great, and I had a lot of fun watching it. It's such a classic movie, and I think it aged really well - it doesn't feel super outdated to me, and it still seems scary.
I remember the first time that I saw this movie. I think I was in middle school. I was on vacation in Galena with my extended family, and we were, for some reason, all really excited about this made-for-TV-remake that was airing while we were out there. We made sure to be in and gathered around the TV every night to watch it. It was so terrible. The acting was awful and you could barely understand what anyone was saying. There was some point where the kid was mumbling about something and my cousins and I were convinced he was telling his parents that the voices told him "about dumber croquet." In any case, the TV version was so bad that it was decided to needed to rent the Kubrick version, so us stupid kids didn't grow up thinking The Shining is was a 3-part TV special. I don't think everyone remembered the amount of swearing, occasional nudity, and creepiness that was in the movie, and much complaining ensued since it was not appropriate for children (you know, like it's realistic to expect drunken abusive husbands to be all "shoot!" and "darn!" the whole movie)...but I loved it. I'm always happy to watch it, for the funny memories of the horrible TV version and because it was one of those movies that really made a big impression on me.
We all know the plot. Jack is a recovering alcoholic and abuser who gets a job taking care of a hotel during it's down season. He is excited because it will give him time to work on is book he's writing, and he thinks his family will love the hotel (and even thinks his wife will like that murders happened there, although it's never clear if he tells her about this or not). Their son, Danny, is sort of freakish and claims he has a little boy who lives in his mouth who he talks to, and who tells him to do things. Tony, the name of the voice, often shows Danny all sorts of awful things in the hotel, like blood pouring out of an elevator and scary girls. He's not he only one affected, however. Jack slowly loses it, culminating in the famous scene where his wife realizes that all he's been writing is "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over again. Jack, having completely lost his mind and drunk on imaginary alcohol, takes after his wife and son to try to murder them. 

I have to say, first of all, I had so much fun watching this movie. I get a kick out of Jack Nicholson in this, his facial expressions are astonishingly good. I know that Stephen King wasn't a fan of how out and out crazy he seemed from the get-go (and that people associated Nicholson with One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), but I think he's great. Anthony and I kept laughing, joking about what it would like to have Jack Nicholson as your dad. We decided he'd always be lurking around making faces from this film - you'd go to do laundry and he'd be there, with that chin-pointed-down-eyes-pointed up-face, and he'd raise one eyebrow at you. And he'd think it was funny, but you'd probably sleep with all the lights on a lot. Man have I written a lot of unfunny inside jokes and stories. Anyway, love Nicholson's acting here. I'm not too sold on Shelley Duvall, but that's because I saw that stupid Popeye movie before The Shining, so I always just think of her in that. I mean, she does a good job. It's not really the fault of her acting that I associate her with some other, dumber movie.

The atmosphere of the movie is so fantastic. I really like the bright colors and big windows. They make everything seem really elegant and wonderful, but also strange. Things like the red bathroom are sort of cool and unnerving to me at the same time. The big windows at first let in so much light and beauty, but as the film goes on, they become foreboding, showing the isolation and loneliness of the place. I think all of the Navajo artwork is interesting as well - it's a constant reminder that the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground, and therefore, part of something that is probably supernatural. 

I think that the film is so interesting because it isn't even clear until the end that everything is supernatural (or not). When you have a group of characters who are pretty disturbed to begin with, it's easy to believe that a lot of this could be happening in their own heads. Danny is a kind of messed up kid, and I always thought that he could have just been imagining things. I mean, Danny and Wendy are a little off, but who wouldn't be, living in a traumatic situation? Danny's past "injury" and Jack's drinking are things that can really deeply affect people, so it makes sense that they might have more fears and such than other people. But, it become so clear towards the end of the film that they aren't just imagining things - something supernatural is going on. After Wendy locks Jack in the food storage, Grady, the previous caretaker (and uh, a ghost) comes to let him out and unlocks it. I mean, even writing that, I could argue for the next three paragraphs that there aren't any actual ghosts in the film, and the horror is only psychological. I think that's why this film works so well, because it's not perfectly straightforward and I think it's open to different interpretations. Just not that one about how the movie is proof that Kubrick faked the moon landing. Because that is the worst.

I don't really think there's anything else I want to say. I really love this movie. I have a lot of fun memories about watching it (I always remember my family's reactions to certain scenes and laugh), and it still creeps me out. I think it's because this feels more grounded in some kind of reality, even if it's a reality that only the characters experience and isn't...a thing. Like, instead of "Hey we moved into this house and now stuff is floating around and we're all seeing footprints on the floor!" it's more of "Am I hallucinating this because no one else is around to witness it, or is this legit screwed up?" I think it's so fun that you're never sure of what's happening in this film. The acting is great, the set is amazing, and the story is just awesome. I love the vaguely realistic madness and confusion. Really, I like the movie more every time I watch it.

Have any thoughts about The Shining? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Shining
Buy it on Amazon (it's on sale!)

1 comment:

  1. The Blu-ray looks fantastic. I love the atmosphere Kubrick creates. Little things such as the sound Danny's bike makes when he crosses carpet, bare floor and carpet again. The book is quite a bit different and does a better job of explaining what the shining actually is, but I still prefer the film. It would have been nice to see the hedge maze move like it did in the book though. I suppose special effects were too limited in 1980. Grady is a great character and the photo at the end is suitably chilling. It's a film I like to revisit often and I love watching everything unfold.