Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Yes, and Jack Torrance knows this so he quits his job as a teacher and moves to Colorado with his family, to focus on his writing. Yet inspiration won’t come, and money’s tight, so when he hears of a job, isolated far in the mountains, he jumps on the occasion. The luxurious Overlook hotel hires him as a caretaker for the winter. He’ll just have to make sure nothing happens, make repairs if necessary and that’s it. Jack believes this isolation will give him an occasion to write, and his wife agrees to accompany him. They bring with them their kid Danny, who sometimes seem pretty weird. He has conversations with Tony, the little boy who lives in his mouth, he has visions and he hears stuff. He apparently has the skill of the “shining”, meaning that he can hear and see things others don’t. And when they get to the Overlook, Danny starts to see a whole lotta weird stuff, mostly around room 237, where horrible things happened years ago. And before long, a snow storm completely isolates them, and things start to go bad and badder. Jack gradually loses his mind, and his family starts getting scared…
“The Shining” was adapted from a Stephen King novel by none other than Stanley Kubrick, reputed to be a perfectionist, and a pain in the ass. King wasn’t happy with Kubrick’s take on the material, and it’s not hard to understand: the movie is very different from the book. There are far less elements, very different ending, even Danny’s power isn’t really the same. But then again, King’s gotta know that out of the dozens of films based on his work, very few are as good as “The Shining”. It’s a very well crafted and acted film that can get so terrifying! Yet… well, there’s one little problem in the film. If it clocked at, say, 98 minutes (like De Palma’s riveting adaptation of King’s “Carrie”), this would be one of the most nerve-wrecking horror thrillers ever. But this is Kubrick, a brilliant filmmaker who has a tendency to stretch his films with a bunch of looong, slooow sequences, like in the confusing “2001”. Maybe that’s his way to make his work look even more challenging and artsy. And what’s weird is that Kubrick didn’t find the time in 144 minutes to explain why all the messed up stuff really happens; oh that’s right, at one point, a black cook casually mentions that the hotel was built on an Indian burial ground. That makes sense… not!
Anyway, that said, the film is still a great achievement. Kubrick has real skill at packing his films with amazing, memorable imagery. A river of blood coming out of an elevator. Twin girls standing in a corridor. The dolly shots of Danny riding his big-wheel throughout the hotel. The intricate labyrinth of cedar. The hotel covered with snow. And mostly, Jack Nicholson breaking the bathroom door with an axe and yelling “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”. Cause by the way, the character of Jack is played by Nicholson, in one of his most legendary performances. You really have to see him slowly but surely sinking into madness. And in the last act of the film, man is he insane; conjugal violence never looked so horrific. So, though it could have been edited tighter, “The Shining” is still a great film.