Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Shining - film review

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining was released in 1980, but I've managed to miss seeing it all these years - though I was keen to repair the omission. Kubrick was a gifted film-maker, and this movie, based on a novel by Stephen King which I haven't read, has enjoyed a great improvement in its reputation after receiving rather mixed reviews on its first release. It's now widely regarded as one of the great horror movies.

Essentially, its storyline'offers a variant on the "haunted house" theme. Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) is hired to spend the winter looking after the remote Overlook Hotel. He's warned at the outset that the hotel has an unfortunate history - a previous caretaker, called Grady, went crazy and dismembered his family. But Jack isn't daunted. He's a writer,wanting to work in peace on his next project, and is accompanied by his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny.

At first all goes fairly well. Jack gets down to work - and what writer wouldn't fancy the idea of a long break in congenial surroundings to get some serious writing done? Unfortunately, the wise writer, in my opinion, takes interruptions in his stride, and Jack really does not handle interruptions at all well. What's more, Danny starts seeing disturbing visions. Soon, things turn rather nasty...

I was amused to see Philip Stone playing the part of Grady; I remember seeing him, when I was a small boy, in a crime series called The Rat Catchers, starring the once-popular Gerald Flood, that my parents used to watch, though I can't remember much about it. He was a quintessentially English actor, so it was rather odd to see him in this film. Jack Nicholson, needless to say, was entirely convincing as the increasingly deranged Torrance.

The film is stronger on visual effects (the spookiness of the vast hotel is cleverly done, and there's a terrific climactic sequence in a snow-covered maze) than on narrative consistency. I gather King has mixed feelings about the adaptation, but on the whole, it's a gripping film, even if there's plenty of scope to debate whether the demons plaguing Jack Torrance come from within him or from outside. I'm glad I caught up with it at long last.


pattinase (abbott) said...

The book was better. His disintegration is slower. He seems crazy here from the start. And I have never been a Shelly Duval fan. They have no rapport.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. The book is scarier and more subtle, and King revealed that his own alcoholism gave the POV of the father a rather uncomfortable feel of reality. That said, the movie isn't bad, and the final scene is one that sticks in the mind for a long time.


dfordoom said...

A wonderful example of how a great movie can be made from a mediocre novel.

Martin Edwards said...

Interesting comments - thanks.