Film: The Shining
Director: Stanley Kurbrick
Grade: B+ (4.5/5)
Description: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family
Want to know my thoughts on the book? Read my review here.
The Shining follows former teacher and aspiring writer Jack Torrance as he moves his family to The Overlook Hotel for the winter so that he can work on his novel while he takes care of the hotel. But his son, Danny, is having terrible visions, and his wife, Wendy, is concerned for his health. As the hotel’s sinister past makes itself known, Jack finds himself descending into madness.
I usually don’t find older movies scary, primarily because the special effects tend to be awful. However, Kurbrick’s use of sound (or rather, lack thereof) is what made this film frightening, not an attempt at crappy special effects. There were times when it was quiet, and that silence terrified me. But then the creepy music started to play–it was loud and screechy and startling. It kept me on my toes.
And Jack Nicholson plays his character so well. Jack Torrance is terrifying. Throughout the whole film, he’s on edge. It’s clear that he could snap at any time, and that made the story entirely believable. He isn’t just an ordinary man: he was already disturbed at the start of the story.
I can definitely see why this film is a classic. It’s a little bizarre at times, it’s definitely scary, and the characters are all fascinating. However, the book is still better than the film.
I didn’t like some of the changes the movie made. For example, I thought that Jack was a much more realistic character in the book. He wasn’t just the bad guy, and he didn’t start out insane. Instead, he was sympathetic. Even as the plot built and he started to lose touch with himself, there were still moments where the reader saw “the real Jack” shining through. Keeping this element would have added a rich complexity to the film.
I also liked that there was more development in regards to Danny’s gift in the novel. It’s addressed in the movie, but it’s addressed in a weird way (that finger thing was a little off). More importantly, Danny’s gift was more central to the plot in the book than it had been in the movie. Quite simply, it made more sense.
But here were a few changes I didn’t mind. I understand why the fire hose wasn’t included–how would you put that in a film without it coming off as cheesy? I even understand not including the hedges.
Despite these differences, The Shining is a great film. It’s a classic–how could it not be? But in the end, I hope to see a remake in the future, one that stays more true to the books. Will it ever replace the original film? Probably not, but I’d still enjoy it playing out more accurately on screen.