Saturday night, I had no clue what I was getting into.
I had decided to watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
I’ve never watched a horror movie so intriguing as this. And I don’t think I ever will.
The Shining is a movie that questions that plays with the audience using the characters, and not the ghosts. You cannot trust any character. But the story is definite, and following it is a real roller coaster ride.
Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, who is the new caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the winter. He and his family will be all alone in the hotel, because of the heavy snowfall shutting off transport to the hotel. But the hotel has a story behind it. A rather horrible one. An earlier caretaker murdered his wife and two daughters and then committed suicide. This story put off quite a lot of people, but Jack assures the manager that he was perfectly fine with taking the job. But things don’t turn out the way he expects.
With enough supplies to survive through the winter, they now live in isolation. Jack begins typing at his typewriter, working at his new book, while his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd) live a normal life. The life may seem normal, but the characters certainly are not normal. We know that one of Jack and Wendy are not normal when Jack responds to the manager’s doubts of Jack taking over the job after listening to the story behind the hotel saying: “You can rest assured, Mr. Ullman, that’s not gonna happen with me. And as far as my wife is concerned, I’m sure she’ll be absolutely fascinated when I tell her about it. She’s a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.”
And Danny has a friend Tony. The catch? Tony is Danny’s imaginary friend who resides in his mouth. Tony tells and shows Danny things, and tells Danny not to talk about him to anyone at all. Abnormalities are abundant.
There’s just one other character whose point of view can be trusted. The chef of the hotel. He knows all about the tragedy, and is a ‘Shiner’ just like Danny. Both of them have psychic powers, and can see images from the past and the future. But the chef is no longer useful after he arrives at the hotel to check on the family. Which leaves us with three unstable characters.
The question is: Whom do you trust?
Kubrick is a crazy guy. His ideas are terribly engrossing. The open-to-interpretation end is so exciting that it is distracting and disturbing. There are no actual ghosts here, but it is already scary enough. The scenes with Danny cycling around have nothing exceptional in them, except the complete silence in the house. Everytime Danny takes a turn, I expected him to get hurt, or for something supernatural to happen. But it just an hallucination that we see.
This movie is a random movie. I mean, there is no reason why things happen. They just happen. There are events that seem believable, but it all depends on which character you choose to trust. For all you know, all of this could be Wendy’s imagination. But the awesome point is, we don’t. We see what’s happening, we just don’t concretely know if it is true or not. Everything, from Jack’s terrific manuscript to ‘Here’s Johnny!’ happens. But is it true? That’s for the audience to decide.
The acting. Three central characters: Jack, Wendy, Danny. Three supporting characters: The Chef, The Bartender, The Caretaker. While the brilliance of the movie lies in the direction and the narration, the acting is excellent. I loved every frame that had Jack Nicholson in it. I never quite knew his acting prowess, because the only movie of his I remember is The Departed, in which he was quite good. But this movie really showed how excellent an actor he is. Jack’s character was angry and pissed off for most of the time, and to maintain the flow for an year of shoot speaks tremendously about the quality of his work and his skills. Shelley Duvall is not exactly the prettiest woman in the world, but certainly the perfect person to play Wendy. To play the role of a scared wife and a worried mother is quite demanding, but she does the job quite well. There couldn’t be any better cast, I suppose.
There is something about perfectionism that we ought to know. It is horrible for the people who are a part of the vision. Jack Nicholson was given cheeseburgers, which he hates, everyday to get him in the character of Jack Torrance. Shelly Duvall apparently did a single scene for 127 times. The shoot, which was initially supposed to be around 18 weeks, went on for almost a year. Another scene with Scatman Crothers took about 148 takes.
Is this perfectionism, or just pure madness to get the characters know how a madman does things? The former, I appreciate. If it is the latter, then Kubrick is a perfect genius.
The Shining may have earned Stanley Kubrick a Razzie nomination, it is certainly a masterpiece of modern horror, and definitely worth your time.
Rating: 4.5 / 5.