Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Overlooked Film

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining will be playing theatres in Britain this Halloween.  It'll be the U.S. version, 24 minutes longer that what they've seen before. In the Hollywood Reporter piece announcing the rerelease, we get this:

Based on Stephen King's bestselling novel, Kubrick’s tale of a family man and would-be writer ([Jack] Nicholson) going mad as winter caretaker of the cursed Overlook Hotel is a seminal work of the genre. Kubrick’s film has been described as a masterpiece of modern horror and is widely considered to be one of the most terrifying movies ever made.

Really?  Remember, this is a news article, not a press release.

When the film was released in 1980, the general feeling was one of disappointment.  There had been great anticipation--a Kubrick film was an event--but the reviews were mixed.  The film made a profit, but it wasn't a huge hit.  Stephen King publicly expressed his disappointment over the adaptation.

Many felt the film didn't capture the supernatural horror of the book. They also felt the pacing was slow.  The biggest complaint was about Jack Nicholson.  In the novel, the protagonist goes mad (or is driven mad) whereas Jack starts out pretty nuts and doesn't have far to go. Shelley Duvall as the hysterical wife also got a lot of brickbats.

I'll admit the film has aged reasonably well--it's got a look and style that sets it apart from a conventional horror film (or a conventional anything), and once you know not to expect the sorts of payoffs any other adaptation would have provided, it's easier to concentrate on what Kubrick is going for.

Still, I wasn't aware it's reached classic status.  And terrifying?  It's creepy, it's ominous, it's brooding, but I wouldn't say there's a lot of terror.


7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, you want disappointing, try this: My four nephews, ages 8 to 12, had never seen it, and at Christmas time, visiting grandpa in Florida, about a dozen of us altogether, we decided we'd see the shining on dvd.

Fanned out across the city looking for it, and one in our group finally found it, after several false starts. As far as we knew it was the only available copy, and we looked.

Got home, plugged it in, and ominously who should appear on the screen, but Steven Weber.

3:19 AM, August 14, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never seen it in its entirety. Function of TV and & seeing bits & pieces on TV /HBO over the years. However, the the extrafilm cultural referents - "REDRUM" "Here's Johnny!" "All work & no play..." that still get repeated every Halloween lead you to believe that it is a "classic" of some sort and we all know belief creates its own reality. Maybe that was what Kubrick was going for.

3:56 AM, August 14, 2012  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I sometimes think the Steven Weber Shining really helped the reputation of Stanley Kubrick's version. You've got Stephen King whining for almost two decades about the movie and he finally gets to do his own version and you realize just how bad it could be.

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