Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Shining

I'm sure you know what this one is about. You have to, right? If not, then just know that it's a delightful family comedy/drama:

Normally on Halloween it's been my tradition to watch John Carpenter's Halloween, easily in my top 5 favorite horror movies (and thus an all-time favorite film in general). Earlier in the month my brother Andy recommended trying to fit The Shining into Your Vice Is A Horror Movie Marathon and Only I Have The Netflix Queue: The Third My Nerd, which was a great suggestion because it's a beloved classic (even by those who don't normally like horror movies) that I hadn't seen in a long-ass time (many years, I'm guessing). I've always admired The Shining but it was never a personal favorite of mine, and thus not one I watched often. Dunno why, guess I'm just a jerk, because as I reconfirmed on Sunday night, it's a great film.

Do you think Stanley Kubrick thought he was slumming it at all when he made this film? Horror has always been a disreputable genre (unfairly), and its rare to see an artist of his stature work in. Of course, this film is a fantastic argument for the artistic relevance of the genre, but it didn't exactly become a call-to-arms for serious filmmakers to make more horror films. Horror has given us enough great directors, but few other great directors come to the genre. I've long wished that more art house auteurs would detour to the darkside once in a while.

One of the real accomplishments of this film s the Overlook Hotel itself. Kubrick's wide angled shots of little Danny riding down endless hallways on his bike give the location an epic, ominous feel that remains in the memory. It's one of the most memorable locations in horror film history; Kubrick created a cinematic space out of the hotel that has colonized itself in our imaginations, especially the haunting and unforgettable hedge maze, and room 237.

The real clincher, I think, is the ambiguity. It's unclear for a while what is really happening; is the hotel haunted, or is Jack just going crazy? It comes down definitively on the haunting by the end, but there's still a lot of tantalizing, open questions. Like, why does Jack lie about what he sees in room 237? How is the former custodian also a waiter, and why does his name change? How is it that Jack is both himself in present, and a member of the part back in the 1920's? And what the hell is up with the guy in the dog costume blowing the guy in the suit?

Grade: A

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