The Shining (R)
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This, of course, is based on a book by Stephen King, which I haven't read. The movie came out in 1980 (when I was four years old), but I didn't see it until... um... probably like 1995 or 96, when I was in college. (I saw it in a film class.) I'm writing this review in 2017, after finally seeing it again on DVD (part of the Stanley Kubrick Essential Collection).
A former teacher and currently aspiring writer named Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a seasonal job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, in the Colorado Rockies. The hotel is closed every winter, but it needs someone to look after it. So Jack moves in with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their young son, Danny. Before accepting the job, the hotel's manager informs Jack of an incident some years earlier, when a previous caretaker named Charles Grady had killed his wife and two daughters with an axe, before killing himself with a shotgun. Jack does not seem at all fazed by this, and doesn't believe his own family will be, either. And he's looking forward to the isolation and the quiet, so he can work on his writing. When the Torrance family arrives at the Overlook, the manager shows them around part of the hotel, and the head cook, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), shows Wendy and Danny around the kitchen area. Later, when he's alone with Danny, Mr. Hallorann talks to him about something he calls "shining," an ability he and his grandmother had to communicate with each other telepathically. He recognizes that Danny has this ability, as well. And more than just the ability to communicate, it allows a person to sometimes see visions of things that will happen, or things that happened in the past. He also tells Danny that sometimes places have the shining, and the Overlook is such a place.
Immediately after that conversation, the movie flashes forward one month, by which time the family is alone in the hotel, and seems to be settling in pretty well. And it's still not winter yet, though that sets in pretty soon thereafter. And once it does, things really start getting creepy. Jack rather suddenly starts acting like a complete asshole, for no apparent reason. And over time, the Overlook shows Danny lots of weird things, like Grady's daughters (the vision alternates between them alive and wanting to play with him, and them dead after their father had murdered them). I should say, Danny was always kind of creepy himself. He has what his mother calls an imaginary friend, but which is probably more like a manifestation of his shining ability. Danny himself calls his friend (named Tony) "the little boy who lives in my mouth." I didn't remember that detail about the movie, because, although "Tony" speaks in a weird voice, Danny always does this thing with his finger when Tony is talking, so I kind of thought Tony lived in the finger. Either way, though, mouth or finger, it's creepy. And it had been going on for a few years before they went to the Overlook, though it does seem to get even creepier once they've been there awhile. Meanwhile, the Overlook also starts showing visions to Jack, which become progressively more disturbing, and contribute to his having the same sort of mental breakdown that Grady had.
Beyond that, I don't really want to say any more about the plot itself. But the movie is a modern classic, and has had tremendous impact on pop culture. There are many iconic lines and images and scenes, most of which I expect I was familiar with before I ever saw the movie. And it has been parodied in many ways over the years. And um... I remember once buying a bottle of RedRum, because of the movie. (That's an allusion I haven't mentioned in my review, but it's one of those things I and many others would surely be aware of whether we'd seen the movie or not.) But this is also one of those movies where I'm not sure how much I'd like it if I weren't aware of its being a classic. I feel as if my rating is lower than the film deserves... and it's possible I would have rated it even lower if I wasn't predisposed to like it because of its reputation. I do think it's mostly pretty well made, and its creepiness is undeniable, and again, the iconic bits are, you know, iconic. But I also think it has its flaws. It's certainly got some supernatural stuff going on, but it really is more of a psychological thriller... and some people do question whether any of the supernatural elements are actually real, or just in Jack's head. The problem I have with that is, it would also have to be in Danny's head, and Hallorann's head, and eventually even Wendy's head. And while I think it's possible Jack has the shining himself, that's never made clear, and I really don't think Wendy does. And even if they were all sharing similar hallucinations by sheer coincidence, there's still the fact that there was a psychic link between Danny and Hallorann. So... it's confusing. And I really don't care for the final shot of an old photograph, which to me just seems to make zero sense. (It's the kind of thing that I could totally accept in another story, and ironically I've very likely seen more than one story that was inspired by this movie to do that exact thing, but which I felt used it more effectively than this movie did.) And... I dunno. I'm sure there were any number of things that bugged me while watching the movie, but even now my memory is fading. (I can say I had mixed feelings about Wendy, probably both because of the way the character's written and the way Duvall portrayed her.) Otherwise... I don't know what else to say. Oh yeah, I did want to mention that I thought the score was quite effective at heightening the creepy factor throughout the film. Anyway, I'm glad to have finally seen the movie for the second time, so I could get this review out of the way. (Even if I feel like I haven't done the film justice.)
I suppose I should also say that there was also a TV miniseries in 1997, based on King's novel. I saw that, at the time, but it was well before I started doing reviews on my site. So I might want to see it again someday, in order to write a review. But it's certainly not as important as this movie.