Hello once again, movie fans! Thanks to those who read my first post on Dunkirk. As expected, the comment section didn’t disappoint. Also, based on Steve Landucci’s constructive and positive feedback, I’ll try to bring more critical analysis to future posts. Asshole.
Let’s get to our next movie. I’ll be doing a two part series on The Shining, my favorite horror flick. The first part of the series will cover what is seen by the naked eye, and a bit about what lies beneath. Later this year we’ll dive back in and cover all of the nitty gritty theories, like how it could actually be about the Apollo 11 moon landing, or even the Holocaust, which will intrigue my Jewish friend, Eric. Eric loves his Jewish ancestry so much that he’s visited countless concentration camps. What fun!
For those of you who haven’t seen The Shining (we’re no longer friends if you haven’t), go rent it now and watch it tonight at midnight. To really get in the mood, shut off all the lights and cover yourself in real, human blood. Bonus points if you grab an axe and howl at both the moon and the children in your neighborhood. To summarize the plot quickly for you newbies, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family (wife Wendy and son Danny) are entrusted caretakers for the the desolate Overlook Hotel as winter sets in and the off-season commences. The three of them are all alone and Jack ultimately goes crazy. His son Danny then uses his clairvoyant ability to try and stop his father’s steep demise into madness. What could possibly go wrong!?
Stanley Kubrick, the director of The Shining, brought us some very intense films. Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lolita; amongst others. All of his films have a bit of controversy and can be dissected in their own way, but The Shining stands out to me since it hits so close to home. I too have felt the hopelessness, isolation and deep depression that came with my first marriage. But I digress. Kubrick was eccentric, meticulous, and all too obsessed with the right take to get the “effect” he desires. The Shining set records for the amount of takes, as the stair scene when Jack is walking up the stairs towards Wendy, saying over and over “give me the bat,” took 100 takes alone. Shelley Duvall (who plays Wendy) swung her Louisville Slugger more than 1,000 times in less than 2 hours to get the right take. Another way Kubrick challenges us is through a scene in which Wendy and Jack are talking in the great room when Jack takes a break from writing. In one close-up shot of Jack, his typewriter is empty. Then the shot goes to Wendy, and then back to Jack. You can tell Jack hasn’t moved, but now the typewriter has a piece of paper. The Overlook was feeding him paper! That’s creepier than waking up next to a ginger! But no way was this a continuity error by Kubrick. He doesn’t make editing mistakes. Anyway, although tenacious in his perfectionism, Kubrick brought plenty of symbolism to The Shining and even though the “haunted” hotel is a cornerstone and character of the movie, I believe it is Jack’s demons that are the true players in this game. Alcoholism, depression, and his deep rooted guilt about being an abusive father is what allows the hotel to get the best of him.
Jack’s true identity is what intrigues me most. Kubrick is quoted saying that the 1921 photo of Jack at the end of the film is a representation of Jack being reincarnated. I love this truth, and I also believe it explains why Jack is the way he is and that all the events in his life have brought us to this moment in time. If you watch closely, and take a hard look at the “ghosts” of the hotel (Delbert Grady – the butler, The Bartender – Lloyd), you’ll see a reflective surface in those scenes, be it a mirror, or at a minimum, a surface where Jack can talk to himself. I don’t think that Jack is actually talking to ghosts or that the hotel is that haunted; I think the isolation that Jack is feeling is compounding his true fiends, and these “ghosts” are merely a manifestation of his own psyche – albeit with a little push from the hotel from time to time; The Overlook feeding him paper to write, serving him actual alcohol, not to mention, letting him out of the pantry at the end of the film.
This is truly a good versus evil picture. Danny, Jack’s son, who has the mental ability to “shine” uses his talents to ultimately get the best of his father. Jack, who could be a version of Satan or any representation of the “dark” side, is evil reincarnated over many years. As the picture points out “he has always been the caretaker” and Danny, a product of his father’s peculiar DNA strand, is a good version of what is the contrasting or counterpart to evil.
To summarize, The Shining is my favorite horror film because Kubrick doesn’t find cheap thrills you’ll find in the mainstream slasher flick today. For one, the gorgeous opening cinematography of the Torrance family making their long journey up the mountain in a little yellow bug shows the true seclusion of The Overlook. The build-up of Kubrick telling us it’s Wednesday or Thursday of the particular week shows that we’re getting closer and closer to an inevitable, yet unknown and disturbing climax. Scatman Crothers (Dick Halloran) traveling all the way from Miami over the course of the movie to try and save Danny also builds throughout the movie, which adds another mysterious plot twist. Put it all together, and a two second “jump” scene is instead substituted for two and a half hours of built suspense, and utter terror for our friends Wendy and Danny. Oh yea, it also gave us the material for one of the best Simpson parodies of all time: Urge To Kill Rising!
The Shining: $$$$$
- The scene in which Wendy sees a man in a bear costume having sex with the former hotel manager was never explained in the movie. In the book however, that particular manager had a secret homosexual affair with a party guest dressed in a dog costume. Neat.
- To get Jack Nicholson agitated for the end of movie shots, Kubrick only allowed Jack to eat cheese sandwiches for two weeks. Nicholson hates cheese.
- Shelley Duvall, who played Wendy, was isolated by the crew and Kubrick during filming, which was on purpose. Kubrick instructed the crew to treat her with indifference and to make it known that they treated the other actors with more respect. This was to make her feel more helpless when the cameras were rolling. By the end of filming, Shelley Duvall experienced physical exhaustion and could no longer cry due to dehydration.
Some subjects for the comment section:
What is your favorite scary movie?
What would you like me to cover in part two of my Shining series?
If Pete Loosbrock, Jack Torrance and Donald Trump were in a room, who would you kill and how would you do it?