The Shining (1980)
Reviewed on 2007 January 13
When I was a little kid and I saw the commercials for this thing — when I even heard Wendy Carlos Williams twisting Bela Bartok’s music into that famous score — I scorched the carpet running out of the room. I finally gave up, sat down and watched it as an adult. I about squeezed the pillow I was hiding behind in two but I loved every tense minute of it.
Jack and Wendy Torrance (Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall) head to The Overlook Hotel to accept a caretaker job when the place closes for the brutal Colorado winter. They’ll get the whole resort to themselves, giving Jack that peace and quiet he needs to write the novel he always dreamt of writing. Sounds like a sweet deal — getting paid to write the great American novel, in exchange for stuff like making sure the roof is still attached and the heat will still work in the spring. The only one who isn’t excited is their little boy, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny has an inner voice that tells him things, a “shining”, as it’s later called. His comes to him in the guise of Tony, the little boy who speaks to him and shows him (and the audience) why going to The Overlook is a very bad idea. Tony has an inside track on these things and knew Jack got the job before anyone else, possibly even Jack, but Danny is a very smart little boy. He doesn’t want to scare his poor mom or make the trip to The Overlook in a straight jacket, so for the most part he keeps his misgivings to himself.
Apparently something is very wrong with The Overlook, because once they get there Tony starts working overtime. Danny is taken aside by the kindly Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who assures him that his psychic gifts, or “shining”, isn’t as strange as he thinks. Dick has such gifts himself, and explains the strange things Danny senses in the hotel are from events long past and powerless to hurt him. That doesn’t comfort the poor kid when he sees them, or sees the changes in his family.
Stanley Kubrick deviated from King’s novel but he still scared the crap out of the audience. Some purists freaked out but I think it’s a matter of Kubrick omitting or changing some of the stuff in the novel that wouldn’t translate as well to film (though it sure worked on paper). I’m not a Kubrick fanatic but I like a lot of his work, and I think he was right here. I tried slogging through the 1997 television mini-series and seeing Tony wasn’t nearly as eerie as just hearing Danny Lloyd do that croaking voice. And Wendy Carlos Williams took an already creepy Bartok symphony and drove people up the wall with her interpretation of it, and then worked with Rachel Elkind to add even more of their own original disturbing music. I have friends to this day who can’t sit through this movie. I finally can, but I’m jumpy afterward.
Three chocolate morsels, and the hair of the dog that bit you.