Sunday, October 23, 2011

REDRUM: Not Just Your Average Caribbean Club Cocktail

Sorry about yesterday's post - just a little Halloween prank. Now here's the real deal.

The Shining: Nick's Take

So what’s the big deal about The Shining?  What sets it apart from other Stephen King movies or other horror movies for that matter?   Why are we honoring it this Halloween?  I can answer all three questions with one answer:  Because it is one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

Everything about The Shining makes you feel uneasy in some way.  Whether it be the godawful carpet of the haunted hotel or Jack Nicholson making out with a corpse – we’re talking full tongue, here – or the face of Shelley Duvall or the whatthefuck scene I posted a few Fridays ago, this movie has got it all and that’s why we, among countless other blogs, lists, people, ghosts, etc., are giving it the illustrious Open Hatch approval.  Which by now obviously means gold – opinionatingly speaking.  Anyone who’s both read the novel and seen the movie knows that the two stand apart in great respect.  I’m willing to bet that Kubrick was pissed once he finished reading the novel simply because he didn’t think of the idea first.  The similarities are without a doubt plain to see, but the differences are monumental comparatively speaking; an axe vs. a mallet, a maze vs. a zoo of animated animal hedges, the survival of the hotel vs. the burning down of the hotel (there are only two references to a basement boiler in the movie whereas the novel has it as a major plot point; so major in fact that the hotel burns down at novel’s end due to the overheating boiler  . . . I could go on and on.  I won’t say which I prefer because both are great in their own right.  I did however see The Shining for the first time when I was about 11 or 12 and have watched it many, many times since.  I didn’t read the book until I was in college, roughly 19, and I haven’t read it since, so I guess I’d have to admit that the movie does sort of hold a special little place in my warped mind.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
As I mentioned before, everything about this movie is creepy.  The collective beauty of the cast alone is enough to make you not want to waste your time.  Tiffany mentioned at one point that she thought Danny was a cute little boy and I bit my tongue.  The mop of hair on that poor boy is ridiculous.  I should mention though that the boy in the TV miniseries remake is even worse.  A bowl cut of bad acting is about as nice as I can be.  I also find it terribly amusing when we’re taken down to Scatman’s Miami hotel room . . . the naked afro’ed ladies on the walls are pure delight in a “Whoa!” kind of way.  A slew of scenes are merely images seen from Danny’s point of view of the various hotel ghosts fiddling about.  I hadn’t seen a haunted movie done so well until I watched Insidious.  Being released in 1980 meant Jack, Shelley, Scatman, and the rest of the cast were making their last ditch efforts to save '70s fashions so even the comforting thought of I’d look good in that escapes you entirely.  I think the fairy tale vomit of Shelley Duvall’s first outfit is top ringer for scariest Halloween costume ever.  You guys know what I’m talking about.  Being the younger brother of twins, I can fully attest that twins are odd and the scene(s) of Grady’s twin daughters only proves my point.[1]  The “Gimmie the bat!” scene is incredibly awesome on both a freaky level (Jack Nicholson) and a comedic level (Shelley Duvall) and I absolutely adore The Simpsons’ Tree House of Horror take on it.  Don’t be surprised if it winds up on a Favorite Scene Friday in the future.

I can’t list all of what is terrifying about The Shining, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention what Jack Nicholson brings to the table.  Watching him speak to Lloyd (the bartender) about breaking Danny’s arm is alarming on a number of levels.  To get my meaning, I’d advise you to watch that scene over and over, each time paying full attention to a different aspect.  For example, at first focus directly on his eyebrows while he speaks and next time focus on his arms and next time the tone of his voice, etc. etc.  Absolutely incredible.  Another good one is the scene where he talks to Wendy from inside the walk-in pantry.  It’s like you can feel the madness breaching the locked door and striking Wendy in her big ‘ol bug-eyes.  When I read Stephen King’s idea of The Shining, I tried to place Jack Nicholson’s image into the “Jack Torrance” character as King wrote him.  Let’s just say I can see why Kubrick went the route that he did.  Nicholson makes a much creepier madman with an axe.  He’s off-kilter throughout the entire movie, to see him try to redeem himself by letting Danny escape (novel reference) just wouldn’t convey as well on screen.  That’s not to say I think Kubrick’s “Jack Torrance” is better.  King hits you on a much deeper level with his “Jack Torrance” because we read him as “under control (for the most part) to mad to ‘love over hate’ to full blown wickedness.”  It’s hard to convey that on screen.

This movie is on nearly every Top 50 Scariest Movies lists, but I don’t think it’s often listed as number one.  I’m not so sure I agree with that.                

[1] I wrote this on purpose to prove a point that my brothers don’t give a shit about reading the blog.  Thanks, guys.

The Shining: Robert's Take

If I can engage in understatement, The Shining is an excellent horror film. Nick points out that every aspect of the film is scary, and I completely agree. It might be the most unsettling flick I've ever seen. And is there anything scarier than someone you love losing their mind and trying to kill you?

I read something about The Shining once and it's always stuck with me. I can't remember where it comes from – a review I think – and for the life of me I can't find it online. If anyone can help me attribute this to the comments' originator I would appreciate it. It goes something like this – The Shining is a great horror film because it's every horror story rolled into one. The film has ghosts. It has a haunted house and a madman. It has zombies and even a werewolf in a way. Indian burial grounds, possession, poltergeists, skeletons – you name it.

I love this movie. I love the performances and the tone of the film. I love the unsettling beauty of the opening. I love the behind the scenes stories that I've heard over the years – the trademark obsession and intensity of director Stanley Kubrick, the dissatisfaction Stephen King – who wrote the novel the film is based on – felt with the finished product. I shudder to think of the borderline torture Kubrick put his cast and crew through, particularly Scatman Crothers and Shelley Duvall.

One of my new favorite things about the film is the debate about what actually happens to Jack Torrance. You might believe that Jack is continually reincarnated and drawn to the hotel, or you might think that he was pulled back through time and absorbed into the hotel's past at the end of the film. Whichever of the two theories you believe, the film provides evidence for both, and I think that's a great thing. I do, however, personally believe the reincarnation theory. At one point, Jack says, "When I came up here for my interview, it was as though I'd been here before." I also recall a scene where Jack tells Lloyd the ghost/imaginary bartender that it's good to be back.

The Shining is the type of film that really makes me think and I'm glad that the talented group of people behind it came together to produce such a great piece of art and entertainment. The effort obviously involved more work than play, but the finished product is anything but dull.


  1. Completely agree with everything you both wrote here.

    Nick: Dude what the fuck is that whatthefuck scene?! Horny party-goers who didn’t waste time by getting undressed from their creepy ass costume? Wild.

    Also, how dare you... that carpet is nothing less than groovy :-D

    I just showed this to my girlfriend (her first time seeing, my... who knows) and I realized two things: the music is arguably the most effective music ever used in a horror film, and the freakiest scene to me is Nicholson staring at Wendy and Danny playing in the snow.

    Great, great flick. Have you both watched the behind the scenes doc that Kubrick’s daughter made?

  2. The "staring" scene is definitely creepy. One of my favorites is when Danny goes to get his toy and Jack sits him on his lap. His reaction when Danny asks him if he'd ever hurt him or his mom is beyond creepy.

    You know, I know I've started to watch the documentary, and I may well have gotten through it. All I really remember is Jack Nicholson brushing his teeth, however. I should give it another watch.

    Thanks for the read/comments!

  3. An amazing flick that gets me creeped out just about every time I watch it. Also one of Nicholson's better performances and very memorable as well. Nice job guys!

  4. Alex, your guess is as good as mine. It seems easy enough to deduce that they are ghosts, but it's funny that those are the ghosts that Wendy sees. If memory serves she doesn't see very many more after that. I'm also not sure what's more terrifying - trying to figure out what the fuck those ghosts are doing (assuming it's your first viewiing of the film) or peering into the ugly that is Shelley Duvall's face as she grips the butcher knife like a 4-year old holding a toy light saber. I agree about the Nicholson staring scene. He could've made a silent film back then that would be just as creepy. I have no words about the carpet, HahHah.

  5. Good post! One of my favourites by Kubrick. I don't think its hands-over-eyes scary after the first viewing, but for me its certainly rewatchable, atmospheric, and there is an uneasy tension.

    The point-of-view is very interesting in the film, and how unreliable/confusing it is. Probably the smartest horror film I can think of. As Nick says, there are many little details. Reincarnated ending works for me.