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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Shining

     Stanley Kubrick's  nightmare of horror THE SHINING is a fascinating and hypnotic ghost story that really could have only been directed by Kubrick himself. Based on Stephen King's legendary tale of terror, THE SHINING is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It's great in that it's loaded with some top-notch acting by Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers. It's great because it's directed by the one and only Stanley Kubrick. It's great because it's light years away from your run-of-the-mill scary movie. It's great because it's epic, it's ambitious, and it's mesmerizing. And pretty damn scary. You betcha.

   THE SHINING is mesmerizing-  it's a film that you just cannot tear your gaze away from once you've started watching. It hypnotizes you with it's deliberately slow tracking shots, long scenes with no dialogue, and eerie score. It's a very powerful film.

     Although Jack Nicholson's performance has been consistently praised (and criticized...) over the years, he certainly doesn't deserve all the credit. Yes, Jack owns the role. It's legendary. But Shelley Duvall does some damn fine acting on her own, and I honestly can't imagine any other actress in the role of Wendy. I think she's spectacular in THE SHINING, to be honest. There's one great scene in particular where she slowly sneaks downstairs, knowing her husband has slipped into madness. Armed with a knife, she silently creeps through the abandoned hotel.  She soon discovers what Jack has been typing the whole time he was supposed to be working on his novel- the infamous All work and no play make Jack a dull boy scene.  Shelley doesn't say a word in this scene, yet conveys her emotions perfectly. She manages to hold her own against the scenery-chewing Jack, and their scenes together in the latter half of the film practically sizzle with tension. And little Danny Lloyd almost steals the show right from underneath the two. His acting skills are nothing short of amazing, and why those skills weren't put to use in later projects is a shame. The acting is brilliant in THE SHINING- this is light years beyond most horror movies in terms of the sheer talent involved.  This film is on the same level as ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE EXORCIST, and THE OMEN in terms of horror films with class.

      Besides the top-notch acting and directing, so many other things about this movie works. The sets, for one. The Overlook Hotel becomes a main character, and is amazingly brought to life by Kubrick and his set designers. It's truly mind-boggling to think that the hotel used in the movie is nothing but a massive set- it literally blew my mind when I found that out. This movie has also some of the most spectacular camerawork I've ever seen in any movie, much less a horror movie. The camera silently and eerily glides the empty hallways of the Overlook Hotel, never knowing what might be just around the corner... The lush cinematography, combined with the majestic and downright chilling score, are truly unsettling.  It's spectacular horror in every aspect.

      The "Heerrrre's Johnny!" scene is probably the most well known, but the film boasts many iconic moments in horror- the terrifying twin girls standing in the hallway- the elevator opening to unleash a tidal wave of blood- "REDRUM...". The soundtrack is another must have, containing some very scary music to listen to in the dark...although it's rather hard to find. It's worth it though to hunt down a copy- it's most recommended. Stephen King himself has gone back and forth on his opinion of the movie, but I think THE SHINING is one of the all-time greats. So many words come to mind when I think of this film. Unforgettable. Intellectual. Chilling. Majestic. It's a truly epic horror film- a grand, hypnotic masterpiece.

     The novel by Stephen King is just as entertaining as the film, if not honestly more entertaining in its own way. Of course, in a book, there's no way to put every single detail into a movie. The only movie that truly almost captured everything from the novel is Ira Levin's ROSEMARY'S BABY- they're both equally fantastic, and practically word-for-word identical. King's novel does offer much more backstory in the lives of Jack and Wendy. And he gives us much more backstory and history into the hotel itself- why the hotel is the way it is. Some book purists detest Kubrick's film, but honestly, I can't think of another director that could have brought THE SHINING to life. Both the film and the novel it's based on are epic masterpieces of horror, and I recommend all fans of the film to read the book. At the end of the day, even though the books differ here and there, all the little rich details you get from the book only add to the movie. And you might see the film in a different light by reading the book.  Regardless, THE SHINING is still one of the scariest novels ever written, with great and grand doses of sweeping terror.  It's truly a great read.

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