31 July 2014

The Shining (1980)
144 min.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
With Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Anne Jackson, Joe Turkel, Philip Stone.
Based on the Stephen King novel originally published in 1977, this solid adaptation by director Stanley Kubrick has its fair moments of chills, iconic images and memorable set pieces.

A writer and recovering alcoholic, Jack Torrance (Nicholson) accepts a job as the off season caretaker for the secluded Overlook Hotel.

Along with his wife Wendy (Duvall) and their son Danny (Lloyd), the three hike on up to the isolated resort nestled deep in the wintry mountains of Colorado. The Overlook is a restless place, possessed by dark ghosts from memories past and evil demons from long ago.

The first month passes rather peacefully for the Torrances.

But when a terrible storm leaves them utterly snowbound at the Overlook, Jack's already fragile psyche begins to crumble. Soon, Wendy and Danny must fight for their lives as daddy/hubby Jack becomes an unbridled maniac.

There's a twitchiness to The Shining which serves it well.

Nicholson and Duvall have an odd chemistry together: theirs is a fragmented, disjointed pairing, and it colors Jack and Wendy's relationship nicely.

Just as importantly, there's a grab bag of striking visual highlights here, including the twins at the end of the hallway...the ominous room 237...the river of blood coming out of the elevators...Halloran's shocking death by axe...and the final chase in the snow.

Much has been made about Nicholson's career-defining performance as Jack Torrance here. But we say, eh. Watch Wendy instead. Seriously.

Whereas Nicholson comes to the party already half-cocked, Duvall does a superb job of taking her character from unassuming housewife, to jittery spouse concerned for her family, to downright nervous wreck fighting for her very life!

In the final moments of The Shining, Duvall gives one of the best "final girl" type of performances we've seen in the genre. Whether it was due to her combative relationship with director Kubrick or not, Duvall's Wendy is a tour de force of horror acting and psychological deterioration.

Overall, there's a certain pizzazz missing from The Shining at key points - possibly a result of Kubrick's overly methodical approach to filmmaking?

The picture has been criticized for veering far from the book. But on the whole, it's too good to be dismissed out of hand.

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