King's novel is from the implicit POV of Jack, as a 'there but for the grace of God go I' worst-case scenario of his own alcoholism (which he claims not even to have realized until several years after writing it). Kubrick's film is from the implicit POV of Wendy and Danny, as they slowly realized they're trapped with this lunatic patriarch in a place that increasingly seems to be an ever-shifting extension of him. As someone who grew up very much like Danny, I prefer the film.

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Totes agree with the thinking that this movie is a real shape-shifter. I've always loved it but as I've gotten older, I've had a number of different takes.

- at one point, I definitely agreed with the notion that "nah, Nicholson seems nuts right away" but as I've gotten older, I've shifted back to being really impressed by it as a performance and also as a directorial choice. We all run into folks who do a bad job of pretending to keep it together and Nicholson's performance nails that vibe in a way that really works.

- the last time I watched this (post having a kid) was definitely the time I realized just how amazing Duvall's performance is in this. Similarly in an earlier age I thought HER performance was too big and too nuts-from-the-start but it's completely in-line with Nicholson, it's hella empathetic and similarly, we've all known folks who have a 'they're doomed but they're trying to get thru it' vibe like she has here

- how is this movie both incredibly over the top AND incredibly subtle? That's the Kubrick Touch BABY

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Aug 29Liked by Scott Tobias

Folks we may as well discuss Dr. Sleep too. Pretty good movie! Except for The Shining Sequel parts, those are bad.

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That brief glimpse of the dog-suited man with his well-dressed companion is definitively evocative, is it not? I don’t know how much there is to unpack, there, though. It’s a simple recognition of the fact that when some people get their freak on, they really get their freak on.

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I first watched this when I was in 5th/6th grade and plowing through King's novels, then watching the movies after. Checked this out from the library, and I definitely liked it, but not sure I "got" it.

Shortly after that I saw 2001, and Clockwork Orange, and realized they were all from the same director, and have pretty much considered Kubrick my favorite filmmaker since then.

The last time I saw it (and only time theatrically) was a SHINING FRONTWARDS/BACKWARDS screening where my friend does a live score. One of the biggest cheers I've ever heard at a movie was when the images finally synced up, but there's definitely a lot of mirroring and fore/past-shadowing that does seem to make it "work". Here's the score: https://coreyjbrewer.bandcamp.com/album/the-overlook-hotel

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Great takes, Scott and Keith! Thank you! I've spent kind of a lot of time reading criticism of this movie (and the book), but you've made points here I've never heard before.

I believe there are basically three versions of THE SHINING: the novel King wrote, the film Kubrick made, and the novel King thinks he wrote (which was later made into a TV movie with the guy from Wings). In King's book, Jack is a monster from the jump---the first words of the book are him seething in barely-controlled rage because someone has the temerity to offer him a job---but he doesn't go "crazy" until the very end. Like, literally the last few pages. But that said, King's post-facto "Jack Torrance was a GOOD MAN WHO LOVED HIS FAMILY, Stanley Kubrick DEFAMED MY WONDERFUL CHARACTER" routine simply has no roots in the novel King actually wrote. I mean, things Kubrick didn't include are that King's Jack Torrance lost his teaching job for assaulting a student, and probably killed another kid in a drunken stupor. He's not Ward Cleaver.

The novel is much weirder and creepier than it gets credit for - there are Lynchian fever-dream moments about Wendy's parents and the kid Jack assaults - in the same way that Kubrick's movie is weird and creepy. That theme of abuse as fundamentally disorienting---as it rendering things backwards---is the constant between the book and the movie.

All of that said, I do empathize with King, because the difference between his Jack and Kubrick/Nicholson's Jack is not how "good" he is; it's whether or not he's a cartoon character. The complex, spiky, self-loathing, family-loathing Jack who King wrote was fundamentally autobiographical - it would not be a fun time at the movies to see yourself represented as Jack Nicholson's performance in this movie.

Jack's cartoonishness, for me, makes it a difficult movie for me to evaluate. I do think it's Kubrick having some fun - taking the piss at the expense of Jack Nicholson's established persona (not dissimilar to what he'd later do to Cruise and Kidman) and gleefully subverting what you expect of a Stanley Kubrick Film - but, I don't know. When the Steadicam is doing its thing, this is probably a top-ten movie for me. The music, the set design, the sense of time and space...all next-level perfect. "Here's Johnny!" and then Nicholson's face in the door? That's some Razzie shit.

Anyway, thanks for a great article.

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Rarely has one film inspired so many takes, and not only that have all of them landed. Great writing as always.

In _my_ last rewatch I was struck by how despite its reputation, this is the anti-modern horror movie. I'd go so far as to say that at a certain point horror films actively sought to distance themselves from The Shining. All the tropes found here are pretty much verboten in modern films: Indian burial grounds! Magical Negros sacrificing their lives for a white child! the scream queen wife! The boy with visions! If any film had any of these they'd be pilloried as old-fashioned and cliched. It makes for an interesting keystone film for a genre in that inspires filmmakers to *not* follow its lead.

The Shining doesn't quite rise above its tropes but I've come to see it in terms of Kubrick working with what he was raised on. That horror could be serious, bleak, and aimed solely toward adults was a concept that was only 12 years old in American film when The Shining was conceived and filmed. It's better to see this as raised in the lineage of James Whale's The Old Dark House. The best of those films always found room for a sweaty, heavy-handed performance or two in lieu of special effects.

There are dozens of YouTube dissections of the Shining but my favorite one recreates the sets in miniature to prove that nothing in the hotel ever exists in physical space. That means that even in that early interview we're in the thick of it....


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With regard to King's annoyance with this film, I think there's also something to Kubrick asserting himself as The Guy in a way that other directors had not and would not. Kubrick took what he wanted from the book and dispensed with the rest, which is a rare and exceptionally assertive approach to adaptation. He doesn't even really care about honoring "the spirit" of the text, which has to be humbling to an author of King's stature quite beyond his connection to Jack as a character.

Of course, Godard's bit about criticizing a movie by making another one really didn't work out for King, because the TV miniseries version of The Shining is bad even by network miniseries standards. Woof.

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"She’s constantly having to mollify him while finding the strength to protect herself and Danny and work her way through this awful situation. So much of the film’s horror is reflected in Duvall’s sad, exhausted, widened saucer eyes. "

on my most recent viewing, one of the key takeaways for me was how much a portrayal of domestic violence it is, even more so beyond a supernatural horror story. as you say, she's just trying to hold everything together and not set him off.

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I think one of the reasons The Shining invites so many conspiracy theories, in addition to shiftiness you both describe so well, is that it doesn't fit into any easily graspable dramatic arc. Jack technically changes, but there's never any doubt that he'll succumb to the hotel's charms, and no tension whatsoever in regards to him turning on his wife and child; typically possession stories (and this is a kind of possession) spend time contrasting the possessee's personality before and after coming under the influence of the Horrors, but there's no particular difference between Jack pre and post Overlook. If anything, the hotel just helps him become what he already was, and while there are moments of uneasiness (like the Grady conversation) where he seems to wonder who's really in control of what's happening, they're fleeting, and in no way do they engender our sympathies. There isn't a single redeeming moment for Jack in the entire film--it isn't even presented as a possibility that he might have other desires beyond getting rid of his annoying familial obligations and being a Genius. (It's doubtful that he even gives much of a shit about being a "genius" beyond feeling entitled to the status as a red-blooded White Man--the "All work and no play" reveal is at once hilarious and terrifying, but it's not as though we've ever gotten even the slightest hint at what Jack was "supposed" to be working on.) If you want a deeper theme, there's probably _something_ there about white male Imperialism and Manifest Destiny and all that bullshit--but for me, ultimately, it comes down to that hateful empty grin, like a snicker in the middle of a funeral. Wendy and Danny may survive, but there's no real hope here, and certainly no mercy. Jack is just an empty space defined by resentments and petulant self-regard. He isn't corrupted because you can't corrupt a void. You can only be consumed by it.

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Still the scariest movie I've ever seen. So scary that I've only seen it once in its entirety. The Shining may be many things, but one thing for sure -- it is absolutely a horror film. I mean there are literally Katrina-flooding-levels of blood...!

As great as Nicholson is in his unhinged role, the MVP of the movie is Shelley Duvall. Brilliant casting.

I always thought the underlying reason why King hated the movie is because he's a writer and Kubrick is a filmmaker. As much as King is the king of written horror, words simply can't bring the shock that moving images can, and do. As someone who loves many of King's novels, I'd be the first to admit that not even his books can rival the visceral scares of sight and sound. It's not a fair fight, and it never will be...

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This is one that, when I finally got to see it on the big screen I think last year or maybe the year before actually dropped in my estimation. As nightmarish as many of the images Wendy bears witness to in the third act are, it really does just become her ping ponging from frightening thing to frightening thing without much context or effect on the story and it felt repetitive in a way it never had before.

I mean, we're talking going from a 4.5 to a 4, so everybody will be just fine, but after over twenty years of worshipping at this film's altar it was odd to start finding issues now after all this time.

Also, big Dr. Sleep fan.

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The Shining is such a masterpiece I have rewatched Ready Player One for Spielberg's Shining Tribute

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Aug 29·edited Aug 29

I am mildly curious what Keith's, apparently horror-immune, daughter thought of the movie. Beyond, "not scary."

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So we’re talking about humor and Halloran, and fail to make hay with the velvet paintings of naked ladies from the 70s? Has anyone ever seen that and not chuckled a little? Wondered if people came to visit Dick and either thought nothing of it because this might’ve been the norm in some late 70s social circles, or if they busted his chops, or laughed behind his back? Probably just me; I’ve given this way too much thought.

Dark humor from dad: any time I’m talking to my fellow Gen X friends who are familiar with this movie, and mention either teaching my son something or my son getting in trouble, I always note that I . . . corrected him. “Randall Jr tried to sneak his Nintendo Switch to school in his backpack, but I found it and I . . . corrected him.” (You have to roll the r’s almost imperceptibly to really make it sing.)

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Aug 29Liked by Keith Phipps

Connection between Chungking Express and The Shining - a lot of canned food in both. The former was primarily pineapple though.

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