Monday, October 29, 2012

The Shining



I was smiling to myself—when Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson), taking the Torrances on a tour of the Overlook and its grounds, tells them that it was all built on an Indian Burial Ground—because of all the theories considering why this place is haunted. Include the Navajo and Apache designs based on motifs and it produces plenty of inspiration for such an in depth focus by this film’s fans as to a possible symbolism purposely invited by Kubrick for viewers to contemplate. It feeds the creative imagination in all of us, study intensely, hoping we can uncover a mystery that may (or may not) be there.

I think the most vital scene in the entire film (based on King’s novel, but, make no bones about it, this is Kubrick’s own vision on the story, told his way) has one of the Overlook’s employees, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) talking with Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd, more on this kid in a moment) about their telepathic/psychic ability called “the shining”, and it is mentioned in conversation (this is just a really strange scene to me, mainly because Danny is such a weirdo, leaving Crothers to talk his way through it as best he can muster) that traces of bad can be left behind, a residue of evil that can be seen by those who are equipped with the “sight” that provides access (wanted or not) to visions normal people aren’t able to experience. Hallorann and Danny having the ability to shine will play a heavy role in the film as they are able to communicate to each other despite the distance of Colorado and Miami, setting up a ruse where we are led to believe that Hallorann may come to Wendy and Danny's rescue, making the trip from his winter home in a sunnier climate by plane and car and snowcat back to the hotel only to be surprised not long after getting there...a major swerve by Kubrick and informing us that Jack's descent was fully realized. This theme--a possible saviour for the innocents we follow is upended before he can help those in need--would be implemented in plenty of horror movies to come. It really goes back to movies like Psycho where someone like Martin Balsam was on the verge of discovering something important only to be dispatched before he could get word to authorities or help in some way, silenced in ghoulish fashion.

Thing is, immediately afterward, Kubrick takes us from this final day as crew members clean the place and get the Overlook ready for a winter absent activity (Kubrick really goes out of his way to establish how busy such a cleanup is, his camera pulled back and following the Torrances and their guide, Ullman, from a distance, also capturing the immense space of this massive hotel) one month later (this month that we never see could be when Jack Torrence loses his sanity, and it has fueled a passionate critique against the film). A huge gap of time that is left to our imagination, but the hours wasted away on the typewriter as Jack tries (and fails) to write a story, hoping the time away from civilization, all alone with the quiet, tranquil environs of the Overlook as his shelter, produce nothing of significance, yet what we do see later is that perhaps the evil that lurks in the hotel might have been working on his psyche almost from the get-go.

Kubrick plants another seed that plays on the final scene with the picture that drives some viewers of this film batty. Before Jack has lost himself to “cabin fever”, he mentions to Wendy (Shelley Duvall) that he felt, from the moment he arrived, that he had been at the Overlook before, a feeling of déjà vu maybe, but still he passes it off as silly Twilight Zone nonsense, dismissing it. But it isn’t just some comment made in passing, I don’t think. Sure, I’m one of those who like to look at a film and examine themes, dialogue, the way actors perform their characters, or perhaps how actors approach characterization based on the material presented them (or, in Duvall’s case, how the director slowly withers her into a wreck so he can use how she appears visually on screen). You can also look at how not only does residue of the past remain as part of the legacy of Overlook but how Jack himself will leave behind his own evil, always there inside him, provoked and intensified by the location. 

There’s a scene where Jack peers into the model of the hedge maze while Wendy and Danny are actually making their path through it; it’s my favorite scene, actually, because it is, to me anyway, a way of indicating that they are now in their own labyrinth and he is looking over them. Fill in the blank and determine what a scene or moment means, does it symbolize that Jack is evil and Wendy and Danny are unaware of the maze they're caught in, he’s overlooking them (nice, this was a happy accident as I was writing it), the evil is overlooking them. Am I just talking out my ass? Do I see something in the scene that isn’t there? Perhaps, but it’s just an opinion.

Hello, Danny. Come and play with us. Come play with us, Danny. Forever…and ever…and ever.

It’s just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn’t real.

That scene where the dead girls ask Danny to play with them forever ties to Jack as he asks his son to come in to his bedroom for a moment where the two discuss how they like the Overlook and papa says he wishes they could stay “forever…and ever…and ever.” This scene, and others with Duvall, produce some strange vibes, perhaps articulating how surreal this family is. Danny hides within himself, a look on his face that seems to conceal and bury while mother attempts, futilely, to fish out the information however she can, mostly unsuccessful. 

Glaringly obvious their emotional detachment, the scene where Jack wants to talk with his son while the kid just came by to get his fire engine toy is quite bizarre viewing (always has been for me) as the two are in a father-son embrace but it seems unauthentic and forced, motivated maybe by the Overlook, it is, to me for some reason, compelling in that you wonder what’s going on in each character’s mind. Both, clearly, are mentally off. Since we know that father hurt son, their relationship somewhat strained still although it’s been four months, there’s an added tension that exists. Will Jack, starting to slip out of balance, hurt Danny if the wrong words/responses spill out accidentally? 


All the scenes with Danny and “the boy that lives in his mouth”, Tony, the finger moving as the kid talks in “Tony voice”, whether chatting with mom or at his reflection in a mirror, just enhances how dubious the kid is. His gift, perhaps Tony the name of it, actually taking him over late in the film (“Danny isn’t here, Mrs. Torrance.”; “Redrum! Redrum!”), a protective device that may just save him, is another added dimension that allows the character and performance to leave a definite impression, good or bad considering if you think he works or not within the confines of such a deranged film.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had watched The Changeling (80) and the use of a ball, such a simple object, can be utilized to creepy effect and that was also applied just as effectively in The Shining when the Overlook wants to get Danny’s attention, rolling delicately between his convoy of toy vehicles.

Then there’s the scene where Jack has a terrible nightmare where he dreamed he killed Wendy and Danny, “cutting them up into little pieces.” I just love subtlety. Prior to her finding him in a state of mental disarray, we see Jack’s face splat on his writing table, letting out repeated sounds as if jabbed in the ribs over and over, and his disorientation just magnifies when he awakens (that stare he sends off after hurling the ball around the room, in some chance hoping to free the block causing him such anxiety and bitter anger, is rather chilling), his face frozen in mortal terror, giving way to a blank stare, is quite a moment of acting that runs the gamut from hysterics to damn near catatonia. Danny’s treatment in Room 237 from the Overlook’s resident motivates Wendy’s fear that Jack has once again hurt their son. This only sends him further into the abyss, the Overlook a welcoming party willing to accept him open arms..that is, if he will take care of any resistance from an unappreciative family.

“A momentary loss of muscular coordination” as described by Jack to a figment created by the Overlook to appeal to his soft side (not having some booze eats away at him), might be an excuse for a volatile  outburst, but this incident where Jack caused a shoulder dislocation after a binge and seeing the kid having tossed his papers all over the floor has remained a thundercloud over the marriage and family dynamic. Maybe even without the aid of Overlook Cabin Fever he’d still have snapped at some point..

If his imaginary scene with Lloyd, the bartender (I use imaginary very loosely) doesn’t tell us Jack has become lost to the Overlook, his lie to Wendy about “the crazy lady in Room 237” certainly signifies that he is now under the evil’s control. He just really needed the right push over the edge to get him fit for the Overlook to use.

“Sorry to differ with you, sir. But…you are the caretaker. You’ve…always been the caretaker. I should know sir. I’ve always been here.”

Here’s how I see it. This is how it makes sense to me personally. Agree or disagree. It is your privilege. I think Overlook chooses those it wants to “join the fold”, to become a member of its legacy and Jack is perfectly suitable for membership. He’s a dark soul, compatible, and just flat fits the bill. Once he rids himself of excess baggage who threaten his membership, Overlook and Jack have become one and the same. Again, don’t agree. That’s your prerogative.



The scene with Delbert Grady, a “waiter” (the caretaker who murdered the two girls and his wife at the Overlook before turning a shotgun on himself) in the Gold Room, his intelligent, mannered speech, talking proficiently in a deliberate, chilling tone to Jack about how he “corrected” his family who wanted to leave the hotel, using his experience as a guide for how Mr. Torrance should handle his own son and wife goes to show you that the Overlook will pool all its resources (liquor, on the house, for him to drink, characters attending to his avarice with a dutiful efficiency that is cold and enigmatic but all to serve a purpose for their new potential recruit) in order to convince him to give Wendy and Danny a “good talking-to”.

                               All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.


When I see this scene where Wendy finds that all her husband has wrote over the duration of their stay at the Overlook was meaningless drivel provoked by Overlook, I can’t help but hearken back to when, in the Vivian Kubrick documentary of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick was actually at a typewriter formulating what we see on numerous pages, stockpiled as if a well prepared novel ready for the publisher. Oh, I enjoy this scene just for the reaction of Duvall and how it comments on just what might have been happening to Jack all that time she thought he was actually working on a story of some importance to his career. This time was actually spent with the Overlook slowly devouring his soul.

I’m not gonna hurt ya. Wendy. Darling. Light of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just gonna bash your brains in.


When Wendy defends herself against her would-be attacker, Jack (by now, full-bore psycho ally of the Overlook, his excuse of not leaving being that he’d look like a failure in not successfully looking after the hotel as stated in his contract), using a bat to subdue him (well, that and his falling down the stairs), placing his in and out of consciousness body (dragging him as his eyes flutter and carry a foggy daze) in a food locker), and “Delbert lets him out”, I think this further reiterates that the Overlook has a supernatural control that goes beyond simple mental manipulation and psychological deterioration, as it can literally contribute physically in helping its potential new member in times of need, wanting to know if he has what it takes, the chops, to get the job done. The Overlook’s influence has taken a firm hold, a grip that demands Jack complete a sort of initiation.

Wendy…I’m home.   

Come out, come out. Wherever you are.  

Little pigs. Little pigs. Lemme come in. Not by the hair of your chinny chin chin? Then I’ll huff…then I’ll puff…and  I’ll blow your house in!   

Here’s Johnny!!!


The performance of Nicholson is always up for debate. It is a polarizing performance in that he uses his eyebrows, teeth, voice in tone and pitch, eyes, hands, to indicate his character’s madness. His descent into such madness and psychopathic rage, vulgar and verbally abusive words part of this behavior, conducted in a wildly aberrant way that signals how totally committed Nicholson is in portraying Jack as a monster unleashed from his cage. Put an ax in his hand and you have the total image of what symbolizes a psychotic madman. His look sells this film even if his performance is considered highly theatrical and over the top. 



Duvall, to me, was cast on her frail features and how she’s the perfect embodiment of an emotionally battered wife trying hard to please her husband, be his friend, talk sweetly to him, rub elbows, offer to bring him food and drink while he writes, anything that might keep him away from the dark-side. Because Kubrick devastated her emotionally over the prolonged shoot, even making Duvall ill, it shines through (another happy accident while writing this review) in her character, her distraught nature due to what is happening around her, the emotional exhaustion as a result of Jack’s threat to her and their son’s life, it’s all there on screen. I didn’t like how Kubrick used such cruel tactics to get that on screen, but just the same, it adds dramatic power to scenes like when Jack is bursting through the bathroom door with an ax as she screams out in horror, her face pale and scrawny body practically skeletal as if under a fast. She looks sick and weak while Jack seems fit and healthy, a definite contrast which makes her ability to outsmart and resourcefully outmatch him all the more intriguing…or at least to me anyway.


You know, all the techniques are applied for this movie. Kubrick incorporates long compositions, lots of zoom when establishing “uh oh” times of peril or sinister, varying angles (from the floor pointing up to Jack’s face when he’s locked in, wagging his tongue and tapping the door with his fingers, or following each chop of the ax as he lays waste to two doors to get at Wendy) from differing perspectives, dolly movements horizontally, pulling back or driving forward, Kubrick gives the Overlook and the three characters as much of his technical film-making expertise as possible. 



You can see how Kubrick went out of his way trying to cast a visually arresting spell, while the unnerving score gets under the skin and layers the horror, following the action and characters (the final sequence where Jack chases Danny in the snow covered hedge maze, for instance) with a sense of unease and possible terror certain to appear at any moment. 



Not just Jack but the ghosts that remain a living force inside the Overlook, unveiling themselves to Wendy as she looks for Danny, are also part of the film’s notoriety. Characters from the past Wendy now sees, no longer hidden, it communicates to us that the hotel doesn’t need to conceal its secrets from her. It’s a coming out party and she sees the residue left in the hotel, the skeletons of the party guests so alive and well while Jack was “downing his bourbon” now as they really are, hotel patrons behaving naughtily or after death, Wendy is now given access denied her previously. I love all of this because Stanley shoots it as if there was a flooding of the gates, like the ocean of blood leaving the elevator pouring out like a gushing wound, all is now available and Wendy doesn’t see the Overlook as this magnificent grand hotel but a house of horrors.
 

I was thinking today, mulling over this film as I was at work, about whether or not Rob Zombie might have been inspired by the opening helicopter fly over, with the variation on Dies Irae as a theme that seems to really set the tone, that kind of addresses what we will be in for. There's a difference in how Zombie sets the tone for his fly over at the end of his film and Kubrick's at the beginning, but still it popped in my mind just the same.

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Enl

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Wsha

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Mouth3

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Fdfn2
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Sh fr

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Vlov

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Edpos

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Ttf2

Jm2

Jm2
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Meg

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ring 2
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exor1

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Conj

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Tz1

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Bs

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The h gang

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Nlc

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Smoke

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Strek

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Mlove

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Alone/dark

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Fhz

Ph

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Ms45 w

Ms45 w

Churcvh

Churcvh
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Ww

Ww
The Whip and the Body 1963

Lsho

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Alonzo, the Armless.

Ckvh

Ckvh

Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Glen: We'd like to speak to the Townsends, please.

The Butler: They are not available till after sunset.

Bw5

Bw5

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