08 June 2006

The Shining

I noticed Musli's been asking about The Shining here and there, and I want to give my opinion of it, because I think it sucks.

My mistake was that I read the book before I saw the movie. Now, I'm not a huge fan of Stephen King, but his early work is quite good (considering the genre), and The Shining is no exception. The book is not about a family going to stay in a scary house, which is what The Amityville Horror is about. It is about a man struggling to escape the pattern of physically and emotionally abusive behavior his father taught him, and at last falling prey to his own mistake.

Now, I haven't read this book in a while, but based on what I do recall, Jack Torrance, the father, is a tragic hero trapped in a situation not of his making. The house has supernatural powers, yes, but they are actuated by the presence of his son Danny, who has "the shining," a manifestation of the paranormal. The film version of The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, makes it out as if Jack Torrance is a crazed lunatic who takes his family to stay at a haunted house. There is none of the internal struggle faced by Jack in the book, no presentation of Jack as a basically decent man, and very little discussion of Danny having any special abilities other than speaking in tongues while wiggling his finger.

That is where the movie fails. It tries to be scary by throwing stuff at you unexpectedly and having Jack Nicholson run around the house with an ax, and completely ignores the pathos of Jack Torrance falling into the trap he's tried so desperately to escape. It also ignores the internal struggle Danny faces as he tries to understand and accept his powers, and the guilt he feels at knowing he is the source of the fuel the hotel needs to manifest the powers that are changing his father and frightening his mother.

The movie even leaves out some of the scariest incidents from the text, probably because of the limitations on special effects back then. I personally thought the worst change was the replacement of the topiaries with a maze. A maze. That's supposed to be scary? Please.

Now, I don't particularly care for scary movies, so y'all can take my opinion with a grain of salt. But I don't think The Shining is all that scary, and compared to the book, it is a feeble, paltry attempt at horror. I found myself rolling my eyes at most of the purportedly climactic moments, such as Jack Nicholson hacking through the door and proclaiming, "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" And I was many years younger when I saw it (it was a good ten years ago at least).

I guess it all depends on why you want to see it. I don't know why Musli wants to see it, other than possibly because he wants to experience American film culture. In that case, I'd say go ahead and see it. Just don't expect it to live up to the hype.


Blogger Muslihoon said...

Thanks, Mrs. Peel! I appreciate it very much.

I read about The Shining on Wikipedia and it sounded interesting. But I guess I should read the book instead. Maybe someone should do a remake to make it more faithful to the book. Sounds like an interesting story.

Although I do tend to like horror dealing with demons and Satanic stuff myself. I like the imagery and it doesn't scare me so much. (I know what to do if confronted by a demon or something; but I'd have no clue how to deal with a demonic doll.)

11:29 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

There was did a made-for-TV remake with one of the guys from Wings (iirc...I think it was the annoying brother) that was supposed to be much closer to the text. I didn't see it, though, and would be very surprised if it is anywhere to be found in movie rental store places.

Trying to think of King stuff with satanic imagery...The Stand is the only one that comes to mind. I don't remember liking that one all that much. (I read a ton of King many years ago. The few that I actually purchased ended up going back to resale bookstores, with the exceptions of It and Rose Madder.)

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Dex in Tx said...

from the trailer, it doesn't look all that scary



There have been a lot of bad adaptations of Stephen King, but only Stanley Kubrick could make his novel tedious. Which the movie is.

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Dex said...

You can find the satanic imagery in some of King's short stories from Night Shift. "Jerusalem's Lot" and "Sometimes They Come Back." if memory serves.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous geoff said...

The Shining scared the pee out of me, but I'm a sissy when it comes to scary movies.

2:55 AM  
Anonymous skinbad said...

I think the cinematography makes it worthwhile to see it. I'd read the book first though. Didn't the old, black guy travel across the country because the "shining" told him to come and help Danny? But it couldn't tell him Jack was about to stick an ax in his gut. Possibly the most anti-climactic rescue ever.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Matt30 said...

I generally don't like anything Nickolson does on screen, and I can't think of anything Kubrick made that he didn't ruin with his own cleverness. Not everyone agrees with me on this.

Anyway, yeah, I read the book first too. The movie is pale and cheap in comparison.

I did see the made-for-tv remake, I remember very little about it. Rebecca DeMornay played the mom, a vast improvement over Olive Oyl (aka, Shelly Duvall). Otherwise, it failed to impress.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous HayZeus said...

Isn't it like an unwritten law of the universe that any film adaptation of a Stephen King book is going to suck? :D

Okay, on The Shining in particular, I agree that the book is significantly different and in some aspects far superior to the movie but that said, I didn't think that the movie was bad because of that; it was just different. Much like the Misery movie left out a lot of the, "obsessed fan that slowly succumbs to using force and torture to get what she wants from the object of her affection," angle of the book as well as whatshisface's (Paul Sheldon? Funny how the name/fake name of the guy in his Fast Cars novel both come more quickly to my mind than the name of the main characters) obvious growing problem with addiction to pain medication, the movie instead focuses on the psychodrama of the situation and in both cases the actor/actress play their respective roles exceedingly well and made the movies work.

It's tough to translate a work like The Shining that is centered around internal struggle into a format like a movie where everything is external and visualized and time makes strict demands on the amount of material that can be included. Keeping all of the internal drama would make that successful translation practically impossible. Ultimately, this comes back to the question, "can knowledge of a book ruin a movie based on the book?" ;)

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Dex said...

Pet Sematary, the movie, didn't suck. I didn't read the book though, so I don't have it to compare.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

The film version of Misery was actually pretty good, now that I think about it, even though I had read the book previously. Never saw Pet Sematary, but I don't remember liking that book very much.

Hey Matt, what about when he played the colonel in A Few Good Men? I find myself having more sympathy for that character every time I see that show. *does really bad Jack Nicholson impression* "You exist under the blanket of freedom which I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it?"

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Matt30 said...

Yeah, Jack's speech in AFGM was well done. Unfortunately they put it in the mouth of a character too dumb to not incriminate himself under oath.

The man certainly knows how to act, I just get the impression most directors don't have the guts to tell him to turn his hammy antics down a notch. So we get the twinkly eyes, the crooked grin, the affected speech. In other words, Jack Nicholson gets to play Jack Nickolson on screen, and everybody wants to throw statues at him.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Scatman Crothers took an axe in the chest, Kubrick totally lost me. I was like "dude, did you read the fucking book"?

The TV thing that came out a few years ago, hard to watch "Wings" brother, but all in all, not a bad effort.

d in t

12:37 AM  

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