The Shining

The Shining

I’ve looked at the reviews around the place, and as far as I can see, if you read the book first, you’re very down on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and if you didn’t, you think it’s a masterpiece.[1]

I read the book earlier this year, and really enjoyed it. The book allows you to see the unfolding cracks in a loving-but-flawed family as they’re slowly torn apart by the malign influence of the hotel. There’s a lot of tension as you hope that maybe some of them will make it out alive, and make it out as themselves.

The film... doesn’t seem particularly interested in that second point, or really, in Jack as a viewpoint character at all. Reading the book, you’re desperate to see Jack resist the hotel. In the film... meh, you just want Wendy and Danny to get out alive. Jack’s an asshole from the start (Nicholson’s performance makes him desperately unlikeable, which I assume was the intention). It’s very pretty though.[2] Tricycle-cam is great, especially when the different surfaces of the hotel trigger different noises — I was surprised how effective that sequence was in putting you in the mind of Danny.

Duvall’s Wendy convincingly plays a person who is completely freaked out by their partner trying to murder them. For me, I found the performance overly realistic for a movie about an evil hotel; seeing someone with genuine human reactions in the middle of a horror movie was jarring for me. Perhaps I’m just too used to watching genre TV and film, where usually, no one is nearly as troubled by the insanity around them as you’d genuinely expect.

But I won’t go on about it because as far as I can see, I’m unlikely to add anything new. I was glad they went for a hedge maze instead of attempting malevolent lawn ornaments with 70’s special effects technology, though.

  1. If you wrote the book, you like the movie even less. ↩︎
  2. I had two choices in Australia for watching the film. Netflix has the shorter version in HD, Apple had the longer version to rent for $4.99 in 4K. You can probably guess which version I went for, and I was glad I did because it looked amazing. However, Kubrick allegedly liked the pacing of the shorter version better. As a book-reader, I’d have missed some of the things they cut. ↩︎
Tom Charman Mastodon