The Shining is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel which King himself hated. Unfortunately I have to agree with Stephen King on this one. It was a mishmash of parts which came together to form something I had no interest in watching, it’s like the movie equivalent of the Kardashians. There were a couple of good moments in there, proving that if you can’t polish a turd you can at least swallow some pennies. Overall though this isn’t a film I’d tell anyone to watch in a hurry.
The first and most obvious problem was that I do not care about the characters. Jack (Jack Nicholson) starts off as a high strung jerk and doesn’t really change. That is until about three quarters of the way through the movie where he suddenly becomes a crazy high strung jerk. Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Danny (Danny Lloyd) suffer similar problems being as exciting and active as a dead sloth in a tar pit. Things pick up slightly in the films climax but only because watching boring characters run from an axe wielding maniac is more interesting than watching them do nothing.
I will commend Shelley Duvall’s acting as a highlight of this film. The level of sustained distress she gives off after Jack goes crazy is matched only by Winona Ryder in Stranger Things. Similarly Nicholson may have been playing a one note character but at least it was believable and monotonous.
After I finished watching I found myself asking “Why is it called The Shining?” I know it’s based on a book etcetera, etcetera but you could’ve removed all mention of the shining and it wouldn’t have done any harm. In fact I think it would’ve made the film better. Having the shining in the film meant that we had explanations for Danny’s visions which would’ve been scarier if left unexplained. On top of that Kubrick doesn’t give any answers to questions which would’ve made the film make more sense. Danny has the shining and that’s why he can see visions but Jack doesn’t so why can he see things? Are the visions Jack going crazy or something else? What’s up with that photo at the end?
Kubrick has done this in other films too. He gives answers to questions no one was asking and leaves major plot points as open ended questions. To me, this just makes the film feel directionless as though they didn’t bother planning the whole thing before they started shooting. Or after they started shooting. This is particularly impressive since the film is an adaptation of a book.
Another major issue I had was that Kubrick made the mistake of telling not showing. In the first few scenes of the movie this happens twice. The first time Jack is in an interview and the hotel manager says that a previous caretaker murdered his family. This is some of the most heavy-handed foreshadowing I’ve ever seen. The second time is when Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) spends five minutes explaining the shining to Danny. It seems that Kubrick thought with those two explanations his work was done and the remainder of the opening act was pointless filler.
The exploitative attitude towards the Dick Hallorann left a bad taste in my mouth. This character’s entire function was to explain the shining at the beginning of the film and to bring a means of escape for Wendy and Danny at the end. After which he is murdered five seconds after walking into the hotel.
Kubrick took what could’ve been a scary idea and ruined it. He over explained aspects we didn’t need to know about. He didn’t explain pretty much anything else. Despite some reasonable acting the characters were unrelatable and dull. The first act was weighted too heavily towards two conversations and the second act was too slow. This lead to a sudden flurry of activity for the climax which made it feel rushed. It was about 115 minutes yet somehow felt much longer and not in a good way. I’m happy to know where all the pop culture references come from. However, in future I’d just watch The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror V episode because it’s shorter and you basically get the same effect.