The Shining Reviews
WHAT I LIKED: Yes, as much as The Shining fails me as a horror as it goes on, the one place this thing really excels is as a black comedy. Now I realise that many horrors are somewhat appealing in this way, and in this case that's probably even more of an insult to lovers of this film than all I've said before, but frankly the film's lack of believe-ability in its own setting forced my hand. Thing is, as is often the case, I'm quite glad it did. Does that seriously mean it's a case of 'so bad it's good' then? No, it's definitely more of a case of 'so MAD it's good,' as the silly appeal of its last hour is at least backed up by a masterfully tense set-up that grounds everything which ever way you look at it, and yet more unsurprisingly expert technical direction from Kubrick. Indeed the sense of place, the initial confusion and the way the camera moves - as well as the manor in which all of that changes throughout - is frankly perfect, and I'm glad this film gets the recognition it deserves in that department.
VERDICT: Huge credit should be given to 'The Shining' for its technical achievements, but sadly it struggles to live up as a horror on its own. In fact, I prefer to look at it as a black comedy, for which I'm very, very sorry indeed.
As for my interpretation of the film, I haven't quite pieced it together but here goes:
I do follow the "Jack is a gay pedophile" story-line to a point, I think the scene with the rotten old lady was Jack finally extinguishing the fact that he is straight. However, I think Jack lusts more after being a child and wanting to play with Danny, which is actually how some child molesters are. Sadly Jack knows he can't be a child because he's suppose to be the father figure which causes some obvious anger: "Have you ever thought about my responsibility to my employers!" (Jack is also constantly frustrated with his writing job). An example of this is in a scene where Danny and Wendy are playing outside you can see Jack watching them with envy. It's also shown Jack playing with a ball in the beginning that later the same ball rolls to Danny to "play". Also the "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" can directly correspond with Jack's need to play like a child. Additionally, I think the multiple scenes of Danny riding his toy bike around signifies Danny teasing Jack. Although Danny doesn't directly offer to play with his father, I think Danny does connect to his father in a way that Danny might fall into his father's pattern in the future. The "family pattern" theory is also one I enjoy, since we see at the end that "Jack" is shown in the hotel in 1921. I think there was a pattern of the "crazy axe father". Danny's weird "seeing ability" could be something Jack witnessed when he was young that made him the psycho he is, and sooner or later Danny was going to become that; it's possible that Danny could have unlocked the door for Jack. Finally, when Jack and Danny are in the Maze and Danny clears his past footsteps and get's out, it could signify Danny escaping the pattern of his father and potentially his grandfathers.
After a writer and his family agrees to watch over the "Overlook Hotel" for the winter, a haunting presence causes him to go slowly insane as the claustrophobia builds up around him.
However, it, admittedly, does many things right. This movie doesn't rely on cheesy jumpscares and unnecessary gore that many other modern horror movies rely too heavily on. The Shining builds up its scare factor with suspense and claustrophobia. This leads up to terrifying and well-executed domestic violence which is done phenomenal thanks to Jack Nicholson's outstanding performance and the great execution of it. His great acting contributes to several great scenes especially the iconic "Here's Johnny" one.
Kubrick uses camera movements and techniques, sound design, disturbing visuals, lighting, colors, foreshadowing, and attention to detail to make this a truly frightening horror film which contains so much suspense. Also, the score is one of the most eeriest movie scores ever written because it contains sharp, high-pitched sounds, and it is perfectly timed throughout the movie.
Sure, this movie did deviate from Stephen King's novel, but Kubrick expanded on the novel. It changed the things in the novel that didn't work that well and he changed them to make sure each aspect of it was as effective as possible.
However, my issue with it is with the character arc. The second Wendy mentions how Jack injured their son while he was drunk, my anticipation quickly faded into disappointment. At that point, I had a feeling where Jack's character was going to headed right at the start. By the end of the film, there was nothing surprising about how he ended up. I wished that his character would have started out softer.
While this film can be terrifying with its clever uses of suspense, claustrophobia, and frightening camera techniques, the character arc has always bugged me, and I don't like it as much as many other people do. I prefer character arcs to be unpredictable. I will always love Kubrick, but this movie was a miss for me.
Perhaps Lynch's eerie style over-influenced Kubrick, and made him underestimate his own ability to show psychological impact and change (which we saw in A Clockwork Orange).
I agree with King that it would have been more interesting (or maybe cliche... not sure) to see the effects of 'cabin fever' (isolation) driving a relate-able character who was struggling with alcoholism to madness. However, despite originating from an interesting semi-autobiographical book by King, I enjoyed the departure, and Kubrick's manifestation of King's story. I tend to be one that prefers to the exploration of departing from original material (books), rather than merely being a visual copy of the original manuscript/book. The open interpretations and deviation from the original material make both versions (book and movie) independent, creative entities; two works of art from the same source, told in different ways. That to me is more interesting.
The film is definitely memorable; and in my opinion, the sound design and cinematography are at least 60 to 70 percent of what contributes to its impact. Nicholson is great as usual; and I did not mind the weird appearance of the female actress Shelley Duvall. In fact, the annoying naivete of her character made it more understandable for her to drive her husband mad. Her big eyes and narrow face made her expressions of terror contributing factors to the insanity inside the hotel. It reminded me of Edvard Munch's The Scream painting.
Overall, I found this film to me the one to convince me of Kubrick's brilliant versatility in covering a wide range of genres. His satire is prevalent in Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon; but this film went deeper into psychological darkness; further than Clockwork Orange, and I enjoyed it.