I’ve finally taken the time to catch up with the rest of the world and seen one of Jack Nicholson’s most famous movies, The Shining. Due to the fact that the movie’s been out almost forty years now, I kind of knew what I was going into when I started watching it, but, for those who are still curious, here’s a recap.
Jack Torrance and his family, Wendy his wife and son Danny, move into the Overlook Hotel for their winter season so Jack can become the caretaker. However, the longer they stay in the empty hotel, all alone and snowed in, it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the hotel, finally affecting Jack, and causing him to turn on his family.
To start, I do want to say that the movie is incredibly good, as it is Stanley Kubrick. The entire two-hour running time, I was genuinely uncomfortable and anxious, sometimes even jumping a little at scares that would have been predictable in any other movie. It’s very well-paced, and has several details that throw the viewer off, or keep the setting as unbalanced as possible. That being said, as I’m extremely familiar with the book, there were certain things that didn’t translate as well to film. I’m not saying that Kubrick should have gone in the same direction as King when it came to the plot, as we all know how absolutely boring the 90s miniseries was, but certain things didn’t seem to do much more than just create a creepy atmosphere. For example, Tony, Danny’s seemingly imaginary friend that warns him of the future, vanishes almost completely after Danny is attacked by the woman in room 237, which makes it feel as if he could have been removed from the movie entirely with very little change. Also, while I honestly believe that Jack Nicholson was having the time of his life while playing Jack, and it is one of his most well-known roles, the character of Jack isn’t that interesting in my opinion. From his first appearance, he comes off as a genuinely creepy person, rather than a victim of the hotel’s ghosts. If I weren’t familiar with the book, in fact, I wouldn’t have even known that Jack was a recovering alcoholic, something that was instrumental when it came to his corruption by the ghosts. Once again, I’d like to say that Nicholson was doing the best he could in the role, and clearly brought his A-game, it just wasn’t a role I could get particularly invested in. However, I do truly feel as though Kubrick’s style shines through in this movie. This was actually one of the first Kubrick movies I ever saw, and his ability to create uncomfortable atmosphere, as well as his directing choices, are truly admirable. I feel that other horror movies I’ve seen have tried to create a similar experience, but none have come close to this. From the ever-changing hallways and design of the hotel, to the nail-on chalkboard style music, The Shining truly manages to bring the fear from the original book to light in a whole new format. I hear a lot that Stephen King wasn’t a fan of this movie, and, from the point of view that Jack’s struggles with alcohol were based on his own experiences, I can totally understand why, but I think the movie did a great service to an already famous classic, in a way I don’t think could ever truly be repeated.