The Shining

The Shining. Hawk Films 1980.
The Shining. Hawk Films 1980.

Before watching the movie:

Well, we’re out of a stealth theme month. First person to send their guess as to what December’s theme was to me via Astral Projection wins a genuine No-Prize.

Here’s another selection from the “how did you miss that one?” files. As I think I’ve discussed previously, I avoided horror movies for years because I didn’t like being scared, and then when I started catching up on them in my 20s, I found myself at best unaffected, and at worst cringing at the cheese. This one seems to be mostly psychological horror, so it should be better than the classic slashers I saw previously.

Thanks to pop cultural osmosis, I know more about the movie than I’d prefer to be going in with, but that’s usually the case when The Simpsons parodies a movie wholesale.

After watching the movie:

Jack Torrance, alleged writer, moves with his family into the Overlook Hotel for the winter, where he’s been hired as the winter caretaker. As caretaker, his job is to be the last person for miles in an isolated mountain area, snowed in with his family in an empty hotel, where ten years ago a previous caretaker went mad and chopped up his family, and in case that isn’t enough to push someone over the edge, the whole place was built on an Indian burial ground. Meanwhile his young son Danny has a growing ability in E.S.P., shared by the cook Dick Hallorann, who calls it “Shining”. From madness or ghosts, the hotel’s history will not be ignored.

On the one hand, this was much better than a slasher cheesefest. On the other, I felt the suspense was too drawn out. I spent an hour waiting for something to happen. It’s kind of creepy, and it’s supposed to keep you on edge, but maybe because I knew where it was going, I just wanted to actually feel like it was going to get there. Some of the hotel ghost stuff doesn’t seem to be relevant. It might have a plot purpose, but I don’t see how ghost A fits into the overall haunting. Why is there an entire bar room full of ghosts? Why is there a woman haunting a bathtub (aside from fulfilling the 70s/80s R-rating nudity obligation)? Why is there suddenly a mummified party in the lounge? Those hauntings don’t make as much sense as the ones related to the caretaker incident.

Two performances I liked: one, Scatman Crothers in what little screentime he had was fun to watch. Two, for a moment, in one scene, Jack Nicholson really felt like a perfectly sane 30-something father and husband. This was not his first scene. He was pretty normal during the interview, but during the scene in the car on the way to the hotel, he seemed ready to crack right there. The one moment he actually seemed completely stable and good-natured was in the scene that takes place in the morning one month into their stay. It’s good that he manages it in that scene, because immediately thereafter he starts writing, further isolating himself and kindling the madness. Of course, once he’s gone mad, he’s great, but it was interesting to see Nicholson play “completely benign”.

A couple of plot threads ended up red herrings since they made it into the movie but didn’t fit in well. They make a big deal about Jack’s alcoholic past and him getting a drink, but then it ends up having nothing direct to do with how the plot unfolds. His drinking doesn’t contribute to his crazy, his crazy contributes to his crazy. I’m also not entirely sold on the importance of Danny’s ability to Shine. He receives the Shining that certain areas of the hotel do, and he foresees certain events, but the most major thing it ever did for the story is undone before it can do much good.


Watch this movie: because ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

Don’t watch this movie: for gore and imaginative violence.

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