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The Shining

USA/UK 1980
produced by
Stanley Kubrick, Jan Harlan (executive) for Hawk Films, Peregrine, Producers Circle/Warner Brothers
directed by Stanley Kubrick
starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Lia Beldam, Billie Gibson, Barry Dennen, David Baxt, Manning Redwood, Lisa Burns, Louise Burns
screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, based on the novel by Stephen King, music by Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind, cinematoghraphy by John Alcott

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer in terrible need of inspiration, and he thinks spending the winter in a remote hotel closed for the season as caretaker will provide him with just that, plus enough calmness and tranquility to concentrate on his writing. So it's off to the place together with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) - but at first the place does absolutely nothing to him, and he gets more and more frustrated by his lack of inspiration.

After some time, Danny, who has some ESP talents, starts seeing things - gruesome things, because you know, a former caretaker (Philip Stone) has brutally slaughtered his family in the hotel. Eventually, Danny even shows stranglemark after he has been in the room where the murder happened, and when Jack investigates, he runs across a rapidly decaying woman in the room - but later lies to Wendy he has found nothing at all.

The hotel gets to Jack after a while, and even though the place is totally deserted and snowed in, he starts seeing people, like a soft-spoken bartender (Joe Turkel), a July 4th party from years past, and even the former homicidal caretaker (who has since long killed himself) who tells him to "take care of his family". Also, he has been starting to write like a maniac lately.

Eventually, Wendy checks what Jack has been writing all this time, and she only finds pages after pages of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Jack on the other hand has since picked up an ax and goes after his wife and son, and even though they put up all the resistance they can, they seem to be fighting a losing battle - plus, Jack has his ghostfriends (like the former caretaker) to help him. Sure, Danny has called someone (Scatman Crothers) to the hotel via an ESP trick dubbed "the shining", but this someone is slain almost instantly slain by Jack. Ultimately though, Danny manages to lure Jack into the maze in front of the hotel and makes sure that he loses his way - upon which he freezes to death while Wendy and Danny make a getaway in above someone's snowmobile.

 

In many ways, The Shining is a great movie, from its almost unparalleled and highly effective steadicam work, to its great and atmospheric sets used to the best effects, to Jack Nicholson's glorious unhinged performance (sometimes he overdoes it though), to many iconic oneliners and setpieces, to a directorial effort worthy of Stanley Kubrick, to ... oh so many other things. I would go so far as to say The Shining is a masterpiece of modern horror.

And yet, The Shining is not exactly a perfect film, and the main flaws are all in the writing: Basically, the story opens too many fronts all at once, and while many sequences are effective as sequences, they don't necessarily make narrative sense. Plus, the whole title doesn't make much sense: So ok, it's properly explained what the "shining" is, and the little boy uses it to call Scatman Crothers to the hotel - but other than providing Wendy and Danny with transport, Crothers' loveable holy black man character has no narrative function. Actually, there is not any reason at all for Danny to have ESP abilities to begin with. Plus, the 1921-angle is never explored - and now I do understand that in horror films not everything needs to be explained away, but since the last scene pretty much hammers the fact home that Jack was here in 1921 (a photo proves this), you'd expect an explanation, right?

Basically, what I'm meaning to say is that the movie, as great as it is otherwise, could have been a lot tighter if some of the narrative dead weight (roughly half an hour) was dropped and the rest put into better shape. Basically, the reason for the narrative letdowns is that Stanley Kubrick might have been many things, but he never was a horror man per se, and Stephen King - well, he writes effective novels at times, but they all seem a bit random - to put it another way, he might sell well, but he certainly is no Shirley Jackson.

This all said, The Shining is still a must-see film, a masterpiece maybe, and one of the most iconic horror films for sure, but not without its flaws.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD