Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Shining (1980 film)

Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining is the story of a writer who is asked to become a caretaker for an isolated hotel as he brings his family along where things go wrong as he starts to become insane and terrorize his family. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and screenplay by Kubrick and Diane Johnson, the film is an exploration into madness as well as the world of the supernatural in a strange hotel. Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd. The Shining is a terrifying yet visually-entrancing film from Stanley Kubrick.

After taking a job to be a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in the middle of Colorado, writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the place where they’ll stay for five months during the winter time where the hotel is closed for the time being. Jack hopes to use the time to write a novel as he and Wendy meet up with the people running the hotel as it includes a chef named Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). Dick notices that Danny as telepathic powers that communicate with other people with their minds as they briefly talk as Dick asks Danny not to go to the mysterious room 237. A month goes by as Jack’s novel is going nowhere while Wendy and Danny spend most of their time looking around the hotel and its many sites including a maze outside of the hotel.

When winter arrives with a terrible snowstorm, things start to get strange after Danny runs into a couple of twins (Lisa and Louise Burns) while noticing that someone left room 237 open. After Jack wakes up from a nightmare and Wendy notices bruises on Danny’s neck believing that Jack did it, Jack goes into the Gold Room where he talks to its ghostly bartender Lloyd (Joe Turkel) where Jack gets to vent. When Wendy talks to Jack claiming it was a woman at room 237 who attacked Danny, Jack goes to room 237 where he encounters some strange moments as he decides to stay at the hotel to live up to work. After attending a party at the Gold Room where he meets a waiter whose name is Grady (Philip Stone), Jack realizes he was the previous caretaker who had rumored to have killed his wife and two daughters. Yet, Grady says that Jack had always been the caretaker and what he did to his family was correct them.

After getting a psychic connection with Danny who has been seeing things that are becoming true, Dick decides to fly from Florida to Colorado to see what is going on at the hotel. Wendy meanwhile, notices that Jack’s behavior has gone out of control after she suggests that she should take Danny away from the hotel as Jack starts to go insane. After knocking Jack out and locking him inside the pantry, Wendy realizes that she and Danny could not escape as the snowstorm is getting worse. When Jack manages to get out of the pantry, all hell breaks loose as he goes after his wife and child in an insane quest to get rid of them.

What happens when a man decides to be a caretaker at a hotel in middle of nowhere as he starts to go insane in this mysterious hotel? That is simply the premise of the film as it is an exploration into the supernatural and madness. Yet, it’s a film that shows a man completely losing touch with reality as he starts to see things around him where he starts to vent his frustrations on his wife for disrupting his work. Notably as his wife is becoming concerned about their son who has these strange visions along with an imaginary friend called Tony. When the boy starts to realizes that the images he saw prior to going to the hotel are coming true, he goes into a trance as Tony starts to take over leaving the boy’s mother to finally worry as she starts to realize what is going on.

The film’s screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson is quite eerie in the way it explores a man’s descent into insanity. Yet, it is a script that takes its time to let the mystery unravel though there’s a lot that is revealed early in the film that Jack Torrance seems to ignore such as the fact that the previous caretaker killed his family and later himself in a strange incident similar to what Jack went through. Another noted fact is that the hotel was built on an old Indian burial ground which definitely explains a lot of supernatural elements that occurs in the story. Then there’s Jack Torrance himself as he’s a man with a dark past as he once an alcoholic who had accidentally broken his son’s arm as he’s unaware that he’s a danger to himself and everyone. For his wife Wendy, she becomes more unsure about Jack just as she was starting to regain his trust as it leads to all sorts of trouble.

Danny is another key element to the film as he’s this boy with telepathic powers where he communicate people with their minds as he meets this very kind chef named Dick Hallorann who also has telepathic powers. Dick realizes that Danny has these visions as he gives Danny a warning about not entering this very strange room yet thing suddenly go wrong when the room’s door opens. It becomes a major plot point that leads to all sorts of moments where Jack starts to descend further into madness after meeting a ghost as they would tell Jack to deal with the situation about his family. This leads to a third act where it becomes this very chilling-suspense thriller as Jack goes insane and terrorizes his family.

Kubrick’s direction is very entrancing for the way he presents the film such as the opening sequence of Jack’s car driving around the Rocky Mountains in Colorado through these sprawling wide shots from a helicopter. Kubrick’s direction is also very stylized such as the way he shoots wide shots of conversations where the camera is far away from the actors. It’s part of the style that Kubrick wants to convey where it’s not just him capturing the conversation but the locations themselves as it establishes the world that Jack and his family are about to enter. Immediately, the audience will think that this nice hotel is a nice place to stay but once it’s just Jack, Wendy, and Danny all alone in this hotel. That’s where things start to go wrong. It’s not just the sense of isolation that eventually starts to take a toll on Jack but also his writer’s block.

Once the Torrance family stays in the hotel for a month where Kubrick utilizes these stylish steadicam shots to capture Danny’s movements on the big wheel tricycle along with the scenes in the maze. It shows that Danny and Wendy are having fun but Jack is troubled as it features that famous Kubrick stare of Jack who is slowly descending. This definitely leads to an element of suspense that Kubrick builds in a very slow, meticulous to have things unravel bit by bit. Through these montages that includes a pool of blood coming out of an elevator and all of these strange images, it is to reveal what is to come. Along with some amazing tracking shots and camera movements to maintain that air of suspense, Kubrick plays up the stakes that Wendy and Danny had to go through.

It’s not just Jack and the supernatural they have to face but also nature itself as they do whatever they can to survive Jack’s terror. This would eventually play out to the horror that occurs as Kubrick maintains this very unsettling atmosphere that occurs not just in the hotel but outside. Even as Kubrick would intensify the camera movements and scenery to play up the horror up to the fullest. Overall, Kubrick creates a mesmerizing yet unsettling horror film that does more than its premise offers.

Cinematographer John Alcott does fantastic work with the film‘s evocative photography from the lush look of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes including the gorgeous ones during the snow to the more stylized yet entrancing look of the scenes at night in the interior scenes as well as the exteriors during the maze sequence at night as Alcott‘s work is a major highlight. Editor Ray Lovejoy does brilliant work with the editing to create some unique rhythmic cuts to play out the film‘s structure and suspense along with some stylized jump-cuts and dissolves for the transitions including some very eerie montages for Danny‘s visions. Production designer Roy Walker and art director Leslie Tomkins do amazing work with many of the film’s interiors for the scenes in the hotel from the carpets that Danny plays at to the Gold Room and its stylish bathroom along with the other hotel rooms the characters encounter.

Costume designer Milena Canonero does wonderful work with the costumes from the dresses that Wendy wears to costumes worn by the ghosts at the Gold Room party. The makeup work of Barbara Daly and Tom Smith, along with the hair by Leonard, is terrific for the scenes at the Gold Room party that plays up to the period that Jack is entranced by. Sound editor Dino Di Campo, Jack T. Knight, and Winston Ryder do excellent work on the sound from the way the Big Wheel sounds on the floors to the atmosphere it creates in some of the film‘s most chilling moments as the sound work is another major highlight of the film. The film’s superb music soundtrack consists of a variety of pieces from the opening electronic score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind to set a dark mood to the film to an array of eerie orchestral pieces from Gyorgi Ligeti, Bela Bartok, and Krzysztof Penderecki as well as old standard pop music from Henry Hall, Ray Noble, Al Bowlly, Jimmy Campbell, Reginald Connelly, and Harry Woods.

The casting by James Liggat is great for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Lisa and Louise Burns as the Grady twins, Anne Jackson as a doctor who visits Danny early in the film, Tony Burton as Dick’s friend Larry, Barry Nelson as the hotel manager Stuart Ullman, Joe Turkel as the friendly ghost bartender Lloyd, and Philip Stone as the brooding waiter Delbert Grady. Scatman Crothers is excellent as Dick Hallorann who shares his telepathic gift with Danny while noticing something is wrong as he tries to see what is going on. Danny Lloyd is brilliant as Danny as he displays a performance of a kid troubled by these premonitions while making strange voices whenever he acts as Tony as it’s a truly incredible performance for the young kid.

Shelley Duvall is amazing as Wendy as she starts out as this very kind and fun woman excited about staying in a hotel for months only to deal with the terror of her husband as Duvall displays an eerie intensity to her role in the way she deals with everything. Finally, there’s Jack Nicholson in one of his most iconic performance as Jack Torrance. Nicholson’s performance is riveting for the way he explores a man’s descent into madness as Nicholson brings a lot of dark humor to the role as well as a determination to man hell-bent on maintaining his job as caretaker where it’s a performance that has Nicholson go all out and more making it one of the great performances in film.

The Shining is a harrowing yet intriguing horror film from Stanley Kubrick that features outstanding performances from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. The film is definitely an interesting yet thrilling take on madness and isolation as it also explores horror at its most extreme. It’s also a film that strays from the conventions of typical horror films in order to have the audience be engaged by the visuals and the events that occur. In the end, The Shining is a magnificent film from Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick Films: Fear & Desire - Killer's Kiss - The Killing - Paths of Glory - Spartacus - Lolita - Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Clockwork Orange - Barry Lyndon - Full Metal Jacket - Eyes Wide Shut

Related: Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures - The Auteurs #18: Stanley Kubrick

© thevoid99 2012


Unknown said...

I'm glad you liked Shelly Duvall's performance also. I too thought she did great, even though many did not.

thevoid99 said...

I don't know why people didn't like her performance. I thought she nailed the part of a woman who is just afraid of her husband. Sure, she couldn't hold the bat the right way but what would you do if your spouse went insane and tried to kill you?