Thirty years of horror: The Shining (1980)

Title Thirty years of horror: The Shining (1980)
Author Tom Chick and Chris Hornbostel
Posted in Movie reviews
When October 23, 2013

Tom: Well this was an unexpected delight. Unexpected because I haven't seen The Shining in probably over ten years. Probably more. Not since I was old enough to appreciate it. And a delight not because I think it's a good movie. I kind of don't..

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I haven't had time to re-watch the movie yet, but I will chime in that Torrance's alcoholism, and history of abuse was greatly present in the book. There's a recollection of his dropping Danny as a baby after a night out celebrating a story that was accepted by Esquire, and a more recent occasion where he accidentally broke Danny's arm. As Chris wrote, from the supernatural angle the hotel was waiting for him, to give him the opportunity to damn himself.

I have a dumb anecdote related to my reading of the book. I was scared like crazy reading The Shining late night. I'd guess I was twelve. I had to put it down, and even put a pillow over the book, I couldn't bear to look at the yellow movie edition cover. My bedroom in our house had been a late-addition by the previous owners. It adjoined my younger sister's room, and I had to walk through her room to get to mine. I usually had my door closed, but I must have left it ajar. I suddenly hear my sister start muttering. "No, oh no. I can't believe it. I have to do it. No. No." She gets up and starts slowly walking toward my doorway and her arms are held out in front of her as if cradling something in her arms. She had no history of it, but she's sleep walking. She pushes my door open all the way and walks towards my desk. She approaches it, and lowers her arms as if placing something on the desk,. Something right where on my desk sits... a pile of laundry! She must have helped our Mom fold the laundry earlier and had some weird frantic dream that she hadn't left my clothes in my room. Our mom was not a Joan Crawford type, so it's not as if it would've mattered. My sister then slowly turns back and goes to her room and goes back to bed. It was a harmless, never repeated, encounter, but it just made that quarter-to-three late night of reading The Shining that much creepier.

I would have been freaking the hell out! That's an awesome story!

BTW, the dissatisfaction with Nicholson's performance for making Torrance crazy from the get-go instead of having it build (or rebuild, I guess) comes straight from Stephen King himself. He made sure Steven Webber played it that way in the TNT remake.

About time you recognized this movie, Tom. It's a fantastic movie, and it's much better than the book. Now watch Eyes Wide Shut, which is also a great movie, which most people never understood.

Always considered this movie a bit overrated. Shelley Duvall is pretty awful in this movie. It's easy to see why Kubrick felt he needed to traumatize her to get a better performance. Or maybe I just dislike Kubrick's version of her character and the trauma made it worse. I don't really like Nicholson either.

Maybe I just don't like this movie and as a Stanley Kubrick fan I feel I should so I'm torn.

Jack's alcoholism was basically Stephen King worrying about his own alcohol problem at the time, and the book frames him in a more sympathetic light; the alcoholism is a huge problem, but it's the house tapping into that which drives him to homicidal madness, not an inherent evil. That's a big reason why King himself has never liked the Kubrick version (that and the fact that Kubrick bugged the shit out of him during production).

It did have awesome cinematography, though.

When I think of this movie, I don't think of the axe to the door scene or the hedge maze or the creepy twins (by the way, nice troll from the Numbers Guy with "a dime a dozen" being worth slightly MORE than a penny). I think of a very brief scene during Shelley Duvall's (as I recall it) random extended freak-out hallucination sequence which I think also has the blood elevators and other more talked-about scenes. But the one that stuck with me is when she looks into one of the hotel rooms and there's a guy in a tuxedo and a guy in a bear suit who sit up from what looks like an unsavory activity and stare at her through the door.

It just seems so arbitrary and yet... so deliberate? The only explanation I've heard is just that it's an example of freaky things that have gone on in the hotel in the past. That seems inadequate. Now I just found this extended analysis that seems to connect it in with abuse, basically implying there's sexual abuse going on too? THAT seems like a stretch.


I would love to hear other theories. Oh, Stanley Kubrick, I love you, but you're infuriating sometimes.

The best description of Eyes Wide Shut (which I like much more than The Shining) that I've ever read is "It's a horror movie, but with sex in place of violence." I want to say this came from a blogger on Slate or Salon, but I can't find it now.

I agree. I like Eyes Wide Shut quite a bit.

I remember seeing Eyes Wide Shut in the theater opening night and watching droves of people walk out throughout the picture.
Which is really stupid, because the movie is amazing. Pretentious and pondering? It sure is. But that's part of what makes Kubrick great, he's not afraid to go over the audience's head and aim for the intellect instead of the heart.

Now, you've got to understand that I am 100% a Kubrick acolyte so nothing about my opinion on this film is impartial or not subject to hyperbole...with that said, this picture is untouchable. I do not care a whit about anything to do with its fidelity to the novel. I care about what Kubrick put on screen, what's up there is damn near perfect in my estimation. It has this amazing mix of feeling incredibly intimate, yet somehow emotionally epic at the same time.
There are so many minor details and exclamation points I could roll out...Jack's dialogue with the bartender, Dick Halloran's crazy afro-lady bachelor pad, the awesome score, that creep-out exchange between Jack and Grady where there's suddenly this out-of-nowhere (or is it) racist subtext...I love every single thing about this film, ESPECIALLY that carpet. The set design, photography, and lighting in this film are immaculate. The overlook hotel is a living, breathing place with its own unique character.
I really like that you guys emphasized Shelly Duvall's performance, which I find to be absolutely fascinating and quite underrated. Kubrick was apparently incredibly mean and antagonistic to her throughout the shoot and really kind of made it an unpleasant experience, and it really kind of shows through and augments the domestic abuse angle of the story.
I don't think it really matters if Jack is crazy before they go to the hotel or if the hotel induces it or brings it out of him. The idea is that the hotel is where he belongs, and always has belonged.
As for Room 237...I told my wife about it and the concept around the documentary and she said "that sounds really fucking stupid". I tend to agree.

I'm far from a horror fan, but I've been thoroughly enjoying this series. It let's me vicariously enjoy all these scary movies!

"The Shining is about [what] it’s about"
"partly for how the other actors [hold] Nicholson’s energy unflinchingly"
"it[']s not because Jack Nicholson is chewing"
"the comments section of Ghost Hunters video[s] on Youtube."

Oh, the bear scene. Yes, that is really odd. Maybe there was a furry convention at the Overlook some years back?

The thing about Kubrick is that I don't think the man ever put ANYTHING, and I mean ANYTHING on screen that was arbitrary. But this image is pretty inscrutable. I read through the article you linked to, and I think some of it is a little grasping at thin air but there's some reason Kubrick felt that scene needed to be in the movie and somehow there's a correlation connecting it to the larger themes. But it still doesnt add up.
It could be that Kubrick was thinking that it would indicate debauchery and deviance that had occured at the hotel, but it's not hard to feel like there should be more to it since that's such a surface level analysis.
Who knows. The funny thing is that for many years, I had only ever seen the network TV cut of the film which didn't have that. And then I heard people talking about the "blowjob bear" scene and was like "do what now?"

Do check out the slightly earlier haunted house film "The Legend of Hell House". I think it has held up well even with its psychic investigation angle.

Yeah, I saw it in theaters too. It's almost too intimate for that setting. I remember feeling the same way about Thin Red Line

Wait, we went to the moon?

I remember lots of people walking out of that one too, I think the only other movie where I saw that many walkouts was Summer of Sam, but I felt that was justified as that movie was about a bunch of exceedingly unlikable people.