I have had quite the relationship with "The Shining," the 1980 book adaptation of the same name. The book was written by Stephen King, and like I mentioned this week in my review of the "Carrie" remake, I love King. He was the very first author I remember loving, keeping on my radar of things to look out for in the future. His stories are disturbing, bizarre, terrifying and yes, even brilliant. There are many King fans were disappointed by the Stanley Kubrick adaptation in 1980, with the biggest complaint being it wasn't the book that Stephen King wrote.
Well, those fans aren't wrong, this adaptation really doesn't scratch the surface of what King was trying to say in his book. As far as book and film comparison, I usually think books are better. There are inner thoughts, ideas, and emotional beats that I just don't think translate out onscreen, no matter what book it is. Books, to me, are always better so I can't hold that against Kubrick's adaptation. But with book adaptations, filmmakers at least try to get the basic themes of the book they're adapting down. Stanley Kubrick kind of just did his own thing with King's story, and that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. At first, that list of infuriated fans included me. But after time, I kept revisiting the movie, it may not have been King's story, but something was compelling me to return to it. Even though Kubrick's film isn't a faithful adaptation, its a great exercise in mood and style.
As the film opens, the music sets a great tone for the movie you're about to see. That's correct, filmmakers can reel an audience in just by choosing the right music. The music in "The Shining," is completely perfect for the story its almost scary. The opening theme mixed with the flying shot of the state of Colorado is both breathe-taking and horrifically beautiful imagery. Great music plagues the whole movie and give "The Shining" that extra bit of great.
What also makes the film effective is the acting. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a man who interviews for caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Boulder, Colorado for the winter. He is told in his interview that there have been many murders and obscenities over the lengthy history of the Overlook, but he still accepts. He needs this job for his family, he needs this fresh start. He has a wife named Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and a son named Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny is a particular boy who has strange powers, if you thought Cole's powers to see dead people was terrifying in "The Sixth Sense," get a load of what Danny Torrance can do. Jack is a broken man haunted by an unforgivable past, and when he moves his family into the Overlook, what Jack is suffering from is put to test. The transition from family man to crazy guy is transcendent and Nicholson makes us buy all of it. One could say that this is typical "Crazy Jack," but I disagree. This feels a lot different from that sort of character Nicholson usually plays and he does very well and scares me fully. Lloyd does very good work as Danny and should be credited for it.
The films use of boo-scares, make-up and scary timing is all effective. The bathtub scene when Jack Torrance walks into the forbidden room is disturbingly memorable. The transformation of the ghost is handled in such a matter-of-fact way that it sticks with you, disturbs you. What also makes "The Shining," scary is the stuff that's never explained. Take the scene where Wendy is running through the Overlook and happens upon a man in a tuxedo performing some kind of sex act with a man in a bear suit, completely freaky if you ask me. Even the design of the bear suit seems like it was meant to scare. The film features a lot of ticks which make the entire film feel off, and it all adds to the flavor of "The Shining."
Stanley Kubrick's film may not have been King's book, but it definitely created a legacy that we still feel today. Earlier this year, before I was a dedicated blogger, I saw a documentary called "Room 237." The entire documentary is about various reactions to Kubrick's "The Shining," and all these people try to detect what exactly it was Kubrick was channeling when he made this movie. Its a very interesting documentary, something I recommend highly. Kubrick was a talented filmmaker with a golden filmography, and "The Shining" adds nicely to that career.