Originally published September 7, 2013 at 8:18 am
With the release of Dr. Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, in just a couple of weeks, I thought it was time to go back to the Overlook Hotel, check in, and see how it’s held up for the last 33 years. I’ll focus solely on the movie (as this is a movie site after all), and add in a bit of my background.
I’ve been a horror fan my entire life, and a horror writer for the last five. King has always been one of my favorite writers, even though I’m not crazy about all of his work. Hey, when you have 60 books to your name, there’s bound to be some turds, and while THE SHINING isn’t exactly a turd, it’s not my favorite either.
Yet I was excited about the movie version. It had one of my favorite actors, directors, and hell, it was King after all. I was 15 when it came out, and while I don’t remember who took me-my sister more than likely-it scared the shit out of me.
30 years later, watching the 2 disc special edition, it doesn’t seem quite as effective. Sure, you lose something watching it on a TV screen, and I’m far from the impressionable 15 year old I was, but there’s something …off about it. I’ve been pondering for awhile, and came to the conclusion, that its biggest strength, Jack Nicholson, is also its biggest weakness.
From the minute the camera moves into the car from that awesome overhead tracking shot which opens the movie, you know that there’s something wrong with Jack. There’s a certain light’s on but no one’s home vibe to him. Rather than go from a relatively normal guy as he is in the book, Jack plays him from being crazy to going even crazier. So it’s not a shock when all sorts of supernatural phenomena send him over the edge. Nor is it particularly scary. There are tense moments, but I didn’t feel the balls to wall fear I did as a kid. The other problem was Shelley Duvall. As an adult I found her so whiney and annoying I really hoped Jack would finally catch her, just to shut her up. Her acting ability was lacking to be kind, and her voice was like nails on a chalkboard. Danny Lloyd as their son was really pretty good for what he was asked to do. I think in lesser hands, and no doubt Kubrick played a huge part in this, when he talks with Tony via his finger, it could have been very silly. It works though. I believed it. And of course there’s Scatman Crothers who elevates anything he’s ever been in. I just wish he had been in it more, as he certainly had a bigger part in the book.
There are certain pieces that work very well: the woman in room 237, the racing through the halls on a Big Wheel, the creepy fucking twins, and the final chase through the maze. Stringing them together however, it’s not quite there. I found the pacing plodding at points, and the one liners Jack throws out kind of dilute the tension.
In spite of all that, I still enjoy it. While not one of Kubrick’s best works (I really think he simply didn’t understand the horror genre), it’s still well worth watching. If it’s a little creaky, and some of the windows stick, well, that’s par for a haunted hotel.