Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE SHINING (1980)

"I'm not going to be a movie star?  NOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
I think we should discuss Danny. I think we should discuss what should be done with him."

1) I know this is a bizarre way to start this 10 Statements...but the soundtrack that Kurbrick puts together piecemeal from various sources is one of the most disturbing soundtracks I've ever heard. The weird atonal pieces from classical performer Bela Bartok are particularly upsetting.

2) One of the reasons I suspect Kubrick cast this film the way he did is because he wanted to tell as much of this film with the character's faces. So much of this movie is moved forward by the reaction shots of these people--hell, a major plot point rests on watching Scatman Crothers' eyes widen and mouth drop open--that he needed these particular actors, even if some of them are much older than the characters are portrayed in the book.

3) That being said, one of the weakest links (not the weakest link, as we'll get to later) is Shelly Duvall's Wendy. She seems to spend the entire film whining, crying and screaming to the extent that it rejiggers the relationship in the book into something much more overtly abusive and parasitic than it was in the book. While that's a definite choice, and one that was successful in the context of this film (people still talk about this version while the Garris telemovie remains mostly forgotten), it also blunts Wendy's 'resourcefulness' to the point where I wondered where Jack's talk of her being so came from in Act Three.

4) I have to assume, given how Kubrick always approached everything with a extreme attention to detail, that the weird fairy tale echoes were intentional, especially in regards to the hedge maze. I realize it was created because special effects at the time made recreating the hedge animals of the book impossible, but having this maze be 'the dark woods' Danny has to enter to avoid the monster his father becomes is actually more appropriate in the context of the movie.
wait a minute...those are real girls...THOSE AREN'T

5) Of course, the sad thing is that Danny Lloyd is not an actor. Yes, there are moments where he works--the whole sequence where he retreats and leaves Tony in charge is pretty good--but the bulk of his performance is lackluster and obviously artificial. We're not even going to talk about the ludicrousness of his facial expressions whenever he starts to 'shine.'

6) I respect what Kurbrick is doing with the whole sequence where Scatman Crothers' Hallorann comes to Danny's rescue only to have said rescue dashed almost immediately (although ironically, said 'rescue' ends up successful). However, I do think that all the time we spend watching him realize the danger, fly out to Colorado, arrange for the Snocat, etc. ends up building up the expectations to the point where his sudden dispatch is a disappointment rather than a shock.

7) Everyone mentions Joe Turkel's Lloyd, probably because his exchanges with Jack are quotable...but to me the scariest character overall is Philip Stone's Delbert Grady. Part of it is the subtle way Kubrick introduces him, allowing us to slowly realize who he is, but mainly it's because in this film full of quiet horror Grady is the most quietly monstrous--telling Jack the most horrific things in the most reasonable of ways.
With Kubrick, it's not this point that's's what happens
getting up to this point.

8) You know, at first I thought some of those shots of Jack Nicholson sitting there looking like a comedy goof were ludicrous...until I noticed how Kubrick changes the color palette whenever Jack 'enters' the world of the Overlook. When he's in the 'real' world, the palette is stark and harsh, but when he's lost in the Overlook, the colors become warm and comfortable. Of course, the world where he's the most at home is the world he should never, ever be in....

9) I find it riveting how, the deeper we get into Jack's psychosis, the more the camera begins to 'identify' with him, to the point where it follows the line of his axe whenever he swings it. This is how you use a moving camera--to emphasize the fact that Jack's no longer stable, but is absolutely unstable.
Furries...this is what you look like to us.

10) To me, the effectiveness of the scare scenes is because they're so sparse on the ground and rely on us to put together what's going on. If a lesser director (like, Jan de Bont or you know...oh, Mick Garris) had handled this, we would have gotten an avalanche of special effects full of goopy, gooey ghosts instead of a couple of carefully placed apparitions with only minimal grotesqueness. Hell, the most disturbing stuff isn't the decaying old lady but the two girls--who I swore were adult actors made up until I saw them in the documentary short on the DVD being introduced to Nicholson--or the strange tableau with the figure in the animal costume. Kubrick trusts us to make stronger scenarios in our head than he can provide himself.

Overall...a truly amazing horror film notable for how deliberate and subtle it subtle that all the overtly hammy elements serve as the breathers, and not the moments of silence in between.

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