Posts Tagged ‘The Shining’

The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, based on one Stephen King’s greatest novels. It’s still widely enjoyed today, has been very influential on a number of films and filmmakers, and has led to numerous theories about its deeper meanings, ranging anywhere from the Holocaust or Native American genocides to faking the moon landing. Yet when it was released, audiences and critics didn’t care for the film. Variety actually called it “a disappointment,” and Stephen King himself hates this film with a passion. Director Stanley Kubrick himself has garnered controversy for overworking and even abusing cast and crew during the production of this film.

I disliked this film immensely after I saw it in middle school, which was right after I read the novel. But I’ve since learned a lot about the film’s production and influence. And given the reasons I hated the film (see below), I’m wondering if my opinion needs a change. Let’s find out.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The Shining follows the Torrance family, who have come to the historic Overlook Hotel to be its winter caretakers. Isolated and cut off from the world, the Hotel’s supernatural side comes out to play, leading to a horrifying descent into madness and murder.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: It strayed too far from the source material. Not kidding, I hated the film simply because of how much changed from book to movie, to the point it drove out all my other reactions to the film (I can be a real purist sometimes). I actually preferred the 1997 television miniseries based on the movie because it was more faithful to the book,* and no other reason.

WHY I’M REWATCHING IT: Well, you hear so much about how great the film is, and you learn a bit about its production and legacy, and you realize how much a movie differs from its source material isn’t always a bad thing. Kind of warrants rewatching it.

THOUGHTS: That was a rather unsettling slow-burner, wasn’t it?

I’ll give the film this, it knows how to set up a creepy atmosphere with great visuals and sound. For one thing, the hotel is so distinct that it’s a character all onto itself. But it’s the way that Kubrick films the hotel and the characters in it that’s great. The whole film is shot with a wide-angle lens, which means we always see the characters alone in these vast spaces. On top of that, when close-ups are done, the wide-angle lens distorts the characters’ faces, giving the film a sense of surrealism and unreality. Add in the soundtrack, which sounds more like several clashing soundtracks playing at once. Heartbeats, eerie chanting, electronic music, symphonic pieces, all playing at once. It is creepy as hell.

I also like the reveals of scares. The camera always focus on the characters’ reactions to a scare before they show the scare. We see Wendy’s reaction to what Jack has been writing before we actually see it. We see Danny’s reaction to the little girls before the little girls are actually shown. That’s not something normally done in horror.

And finally, the film takes its time setting up the horror. It doesn’t rush in to showing us the gruesome haunting nature of the Overlook, but gives us time to see how isolated the characters are before introducing elements to show how their insanity is growing/the hotel is alive. It’s pretty effective.

However, I did have some issues with the movie. For one, the actors and the characters they portray. I didn’t care for either, really. Jack Nicholson is pretty good at playing a madman, but in my experience, that’s all his performances, and there’s not much transition between normal Jack Torrance to insane Jack Torrance. Shelley Duvall as Wendy…I don’t know what it was, but I just got annoyed with her every time she was on screen. And Danny Lloyd as Danny (ha!) was passable, but let’s face it, the character in the movie isn’t as fleshed out or as deep as he is in the movie. You could change the actor out, and it wouldn’t make that much difference, because Danny in the movie is very flat.

On top of that, I wasn’t ever that scared by the film. True, seeing Jack go after his wife and son with an ax is pretty threatening, but he doesn’t actually hurt them or get close to doing so. And while the film is good at keeping that creepy atmosphere going, it never truly escalates to the point where I feel myself shift from terror.

And like I said, the novel is phenomenal. Was it really that necessary to make so many changes from the source material? Also, what’s with that photo in the last shot? Was Jack reincarnated from a previous caretaker? Did he travel through time? I don’t get it! Explain movie! Explain!

FINAL JUDGMENT: I have a feeling this opinion is going to rile some people. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Shining a 3.5. It’s creepy and visually creative, but the actors/characters aren’t that great, and the lack of terror, unexplained final shot, and important changes from the source material are issues that detract from my viewing.

Sad to say, it’s just not a film for me.


Well, at least I got that film out of the way. And with The Shining watched, I only have two films to go. Though I have a feeling this next one might be painful to watch…

Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares.

*And now I may have to get that miniseries again just to get a fresh opinion (Rewatch series 2?). And I’ll have to rewatch Room 237, the documentary on The Shining movie and people’s interpretations of it. And maybe reread the book? It’s been at least a decade, so I don’t remember it that well. And I should really get to reading Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. Especially since a movie version’s on the way.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.


So I’m seven films into this series (click here to see the whole series), where I rewatch horror films I previously disliked to see if there was something there I missed the first time. And this time around, I’m going with a classic. By which I mean, it’s probably older than any of my grandparents. Nosferatu, one of the earliest horror films and the first Dracula adaptation, as well as an example of German expressionist film. It’s become something of a cult classic since it’s release over ninety years ago, and its villain, Count Orlok, has become almost a meme, but longer lasting.

And can I just say, my own opinion aside, it’s a freaking miracle we even have this movie? Not kidding, we nearly lost this film to copyright infringement. Prana Films, the studio that made this film, was started and owned by two businessmen who never made a film before, and apparently had no idea you had to ask permission before doing an adaptation of a non-public domain work. Bram Stoker’s widow sued the company when she found out, and the company was forced to destroy all their copies…except or two copies, which have been copied and cobbled together to preserve the film to this day. Which is why if you watch the film today, sometimes the film is pure black-and-white, and at other times it’s sepia-toned.*

Okay, enough of that. Time to talk about the actual film.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: It’s Dracula, just with everyone’s names changed: Dracula is now Orlok, Harker is Hutter, Mina is Ellen, etc. Do you need more information than that?

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was fifteen or sixteen when I saw this film for the first time. And while I enjoyed older films well before then, I just didn’t get into it. I knew the plot, so I was never surprised or scared. It was just…boring. Really poisoned silent films for me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I just thought it would be good for this series. And in any case, while I still don’t read it that much, I appreciate classic literature much more than I did then. Maybe that extended to films too.

THOUGHTS: Um…it’s not good, but I find it hard to hate.

Look, you need to have a certain frame of mind to enjoy silent films, and I’ve only enjoyed one of the silent films I’ve seen (which was made in 2005, so…), so it’s safe to say I don’t have that frame of mind.

But I did enjoy it at times…as a comedy. Yeah, I know it’s a horror film, but I just couldn’t help but laugh at the film. There was so much to make fun of! For one thing, the make-up makes every guy look like a serial killer about to take a victim, especially when they laugh or smile, and every girl like a drag queen. I just couldn’t help but giggle. (Also, the character Knock is probably the inspiration for Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Thank the make-up department for that!).

And because it was a silent film, I could just sit in my living room and make goofy voices. I remember during one moment, when Hutter comes home to tell Ellen he’s going abroad, I responded to the dialogue card by saying, “Hi husband, good to see you too. I had a wonderful day, thank you for asking. Now what are you talking about?” And when Hutter runs into another room to start packing, I said, “So this is what Marge and Lois are talking about when their husbands announce they’re about to do something stupid.” It was hysterical.

Unfortunately, the best of on-the-spot comedy couldn’t help the film from dragging. For a 95-minute film, it felt so much longer, and like nothing was happening at all. Characters just took their time, said things, and reacted to things. There was nothing to get your blood pumping at all.

I could go on with the problems I had with this film, but that’d be a veeeery long blog post. I’ll just save time by saying, I had many more issues that kept me from enjoying it.

Still, Count Orlok is cool looking, and the sets are really pretty. I’ll give the film that.

JUDGMENT: I’m sorry, but it’s just not my kind of film. I know it has its fans, but I’m not one of them. 1.5 out of 5. I’m sad to say that, due to its place in film history, but that’s just how I feel.

Well, I think I might enjoy this next film a bit more. And if I don’t, there’s a good chance I’ll be reviled in the comments for it. in fact, people might shout “REDRUM” at me. That’s right, I’m rewatching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining next.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Also, the version of the film I watched was restored in Wiesbaden, the city in Germany I lived in for four months back in 2015! That’s really cool, if you ask me. My former home helped to create a beautiful print of a classic movie. I wonder if my supervisors knew about that?

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know I’m a huge fan of horror. I read horror novels, I write horror stories, I sometimes write articles examining various aspects of horror, I watch YouTube videos about dark and creepy subjects, I decorate my apartment with horrifying artwork and dolls and stuff, I…well, you get the idea. And of course, I watch plenty of horror films and shows.

And as every true horror fan knows, it can be hard to find good horror sometimes, particularly in the movie department. We fans watch a lot of horror movies that are really bad hoping that they may be good and even give us a few nightmares (or in my case, some good inspiration). I sometimes think of it examining piles of shit looking for gold nuggets, only you can’t tell the difference without special examination (imagine if that was the actual case. Nobody but the really desperate would ever look for good horror movies!). And I’ve seen plenty of bad horror films over the years while looking for good ones. I’ve even written about them, on occasion.

But lately there’s been something I’ve been wanting to try. You see, some of those horror films that I’ve hated, I’ve heard lots of people praising. They tell me the shit is actually gold. I’ve even seen some very thorough examinations of these films, in essays and videos, and the writers/creators of those videos have made me wonder if maybe I should rewatch some of these films, and reexamine my opinions of these films.

So now that I’ve seen It and there aren’t that many horror films coming out in the next couple months that I’m absolutely dying to see and review, I think it’s time to do what I’m going to call the Rewatch Review series. I’m going to watch ten films that I’ve hated and/or given bad reviews in the past, and see if my opinion has been changed. Some I may have watched in the wrong light, others I just think I missed something the first time around. Either way, I’m going to take a look again and then let you know if I’ve got any new thoughts to share.

And with the first film waiting for me at the library even as you read this, I should be able to start watching in earnest soon. It may take some time, depending on how quickly I can get these movies, but either way, you’re going to get something from me.

As for what these films are, I’ll list them below. When I’ve written my (hopefully changed) thoughts on each movie, I’ll post a link to this article. That way, if you want to read all my thoughts at once, you’ll have that option (though I don’t know if anyone’s THAT bored!).

Perfect Blue (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
The Witch (2015)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Oculus (2013)
Evil Dead (1981)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Shining (1980)
Mama (2013)
Whispering Corridors (1998)

Why did I dislike some of these films? You’re going to have to wait till I actually write about them. Haven’t I reviewed a few of them before? Yes. Why am I reexamining them if I already reviewed them? You’ll have to wait till I watch them. And that’s all I’m saying on the subject.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m heading off to bed. Until I write again, pleasant nightmares.*

*And if you have any, let me know. I might write a novel based off it.

So yesterday I’m having a conversation with the receptionist at my doctor’s office while I wait for my appointment, and we get onto the subject of the stories I’m working on (because if you know me, after a while that WILL come up). I tell her about my WIP Rose, and what that’s about, as well as some of the themes in the story. When she hears that it deals with some pretty heavy themes like abuse, her response was, “Wow, I didn’t know horror could be so deep.”

And that’s a common response from non-fans, not just of horror but of speculative fiction in general. People who are on the outside of this genre tend to look in and see only a stereotypical surface: swords and wizards and weird humanoid species who make weird oaths with the names of oddly named gods for fantasy; funny costumes, silly effects, and incomprehensible in-universe technical jargon for sci-fi; and of course, people screaming and dying in gross ways for horror. And to be fair, a lot of these stereotypes do have examples in the genres that are just that, especially the slasher genre for horror. Whether they emerged as a result of the stereotypes or they were the influence that created the stereotypes, I’m not sure.

But, as any fan can attest to, any one of these genres can delve deep into very complex ideas and themes. And that includes horror, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this post (sorry sci-fi and fantasy. I love you, but you’re not my normal bailiwick). In fact, horror does this quite a bit, it’s just usually more subtext than overt. The reason behind this, obviously, is because horror’s main purpose is to scare, so having exploration of ideas take the forefront of the story over the actual scares and plot actually takes away from the latter, which causes the story as a whole to suffer. In novels, you can sometimes devote a few paragraphs or even a couple pages to that, but it still cannot be the main component of the story.

And because it’s often more subtext, the heavy bits are often overlooked by non-fans and even some fans, who are more likely to focus on how scary/creepy/unnerving the story was. This happens especially in movies and TV shows, which as visual mediums are very good at conveying the scare with their subtext.

A text full of great subtext.

However, even if it’s not obvious, the heavy themes and ideas are still present in the story if you look for them. A good example would be Dracula by Bram Stoker: on the surface, you have a Gothic vampire story. But go a little deeper, you see a commentary and criticism on Victorian ideas and fears. Dracula himself can be seen as a sort of twisted Jesus Christ, offering immortality through the drinking of his blood and the taking of the blood of others; the vampires themselves can be interpreted as corrupting sexuality turning good people, particularly women, into carnal monsters; and the vampires coming to England as a nod to English xenophobia, with Dracula and his kind, who speak and act strangely and must sleep in the soil of their native lands, representing the influx of foreigners to England during the later Victorian era and how they may not be suited to English society, according to some Victorians.

A story that’s more than just scares.

And this can be found throughout horror stories, particularly in novels where there is room to explore these heavy themes. A lot of times, you can see these themes embodied in some way in the supernatural forces that may threaten the character(s). Stephen King does this very well in many of his stories: while explicitly stated that the events of The Shining are supernatural in origin, on another level it’s a great story of a family breaking down due to stress, isolation, alcoholism, and old tensions arising, with the hotel simply being a stage for things to play out rather than a true supernatural entity. Likewise, It is a story about a supernatural force, but that same force is also a representation of childhood fears, what we fear in the dark as well as fear of growing up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this great novel.

You also see this in movies, with a great example being The Babadook. While the titular monster could be real, it could also be a form of shared delusion between a mother and her son, trying to work through their individual and collective issues. There are a number of articles that look at the film from a psychological perspective, and the arguments they make put the story in a whole new light from first viewing. The Babadook is a story laced with deeper meaning, if you just look beyond the surface.

So as we can see, horror is more than just people screaming and dying in gruesome ways. Like any story, it can have a deeper meaning, going into the psychology of characters, the beliefs of society, philosophies on life, death, love and so much more. You just have to pull back a veil and take a closer look, and you’ll see what’s always been there.