July 6: #22, The Shining
“Red rum. Red rum. Red rum.”
I've seen The Shining a few times, so this time around I watched the international version, which is actually trimmed down from the US version but is said to be the one that Stanley Kubrick prefers. It seems strange for a guy that gleefully made us watch monkeys hop around for 20 minutes in 2001: A Space Odyssey to be so willing to edit his work, but okay. I looked at the stuff that was cut out and aside from one line between Jack and the bartender in the hotel, I could see his point.
The main difference with the international version is that with some of the fat cut out from early in the film, we go from, “Hmm...this doesn't seem right” to “What the fuck GET OUT OF THERE LADY” in much less time. I don't think it hurts the film, but your mileage may vary.
Anyway, The Shining is one of my favorite Kubrick films because it really shows what a genius he was and how he could have been a great director in any genre. He effortlessly builds tension right from the opening credits with some really nice establishing shots of the Torrance family driving past the lake in their humble little car, not knowing what they're in for. A creepy feeling permeates just about every moment of the film, from the low-angle shots following Danny Torrance on his big wheel rides through the hotel to Jack's hallucinations in the bar and ballroom later on.
Kubrick really excels at filling the open spaces of the hotel with a sense of dread, as you feel like every room in the hotel may hold some sort of terrible secret, not just room 237. Classic shots such as the two little girls in their dresses (and the alternating shot of their dead bodies strewn about the hall) and the cascading river of blood from the elevator are complemented by creepy little touches such as, oh, the natural insanity of Jack Nicholson's eyebrows.
Creepy child actors are a mainstay in modern horror, especially with the flood of PG-13 paranormal flicks we've seen in the last couple of decades. They all owe some royalties to Danny Lloyd, who nails it as one of the creepiest kids in horror history as Danny Torrance. Danny's alter-ego Tony and the believable way in which he reacts to his heightened awareness of the threats within the hotel are essential to the film's success.
The same is true of Shelley Duvall, who was quite literally subjected to psychological torture by Kubrick during the filming of the movie. Kubrick famously made Duvall perform over 100 takes of the scene in which she tearfully confronts Jack with a baseball bat, which is said to be a world record for a scene that contains spoken dialogue. He also supposedly told the other members of the cast and crew to shun her so she'd feel isolated throughout the filming.
Now, you may be like some of the detractors of The Shining, which include the book's author, Stephen King. King wanted a more assertive Wendy Torrance, and yes, Duvall is a complete mess throughout. But that's what Kubrick wanted and I don't think you can say it's unbelievable for the time period and situation.
|"Winter is coming."|
You've either seen The Shining or you haven't, and if you haven't, you really, really need to. If you have, we all know how it goes down and Kubrick and the small cast handle every part of it to near perfection. Kubrick's choices here don't seem as self-congratulatory as in some of his other more showy films, and we still get wonderful work such as the seamless transition between Jack staring at the model of the hedge maze to an overhead shot of the maze itself, with Wendy and Danny in it. This and Full Metal Jacket represent Kubrick at the peak of his powers.