Arizona Times review Shining 10/04/2010

80 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.

They just love it for the wrong reasons.

(Not King, by the way, who famously didn’t care much for it at all.)

Mention the film to a casual fan and he’ll inevitably reply, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Ugh. That’s the problem. In a great performance by Jack Nicholson, what everyone remembers is the scene where he goes way over the top. Granted, at the time, the topical “Tonight Show” reference – back when that didn’t mean dissing Jay Leno – was pretty stunning stuff.

But over time, the rest of the performance has held up better.

Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a sobered-up author with a troubled family life looking to set things right and get some writing done in the isolation of taking care of an enormous hotel, closed for the winter. He and his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) will be snowed in; in-season caretaker Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) sets them up with food and supplies before taking off, leaving them alone for the winter.

Only they’re not alone. Jack has regular conversations with ghosts of past employees. The isolation drove a previous winter caretaker insane, and he murdered his family. Jack seems to be following the same path, as the famous scene in which Wendy discovers that his “work” while he’s been there consists of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” typed again and again over hundreds of pages.

But Danny has the “shining,” a psychic ability that allows him to see things that have happened and that will happen – and those things aren’t good (“REDRUM! REDRUM!”). It’s a gift he shares with Dick. Works out a little better for Danny than it does for Dick, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

There are scares aplenty, but what’s most effective is the creeping sense of dread and doom that Kubrick and Nicholson bring to the movie. Nicholson doesn’t just pop up with an axe and start chopping in the most famous scene. How he gets there is the good part, slowly disintegrating into madness. Kubrick takes his time, which is unusual for horror movies. But it’s appropriate here because Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” (King was behind a 1997 TV remake) isn’t just a horror film. It’s that and so much more.


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