The Shining

The Shining
   1) (1977)
   Stephen King’s third published novel (it was preceded by Carrie and ’Salem’s Lot) was inspired by a vacation he took with his family in Colorado, late in the summer of 1974. Upon visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, King decided it would be a perfect location for a ghost story. Moreover, his own recent struggles with a drinking problem (which he discusses in On Writing, 2000) fed into his conception of the character of the tortured and abusive Jack Torrance.
   Former schoolteacher and wannabe playwright Torrance and his wife,Wendy, and their five-year-old boy, Danny, move into the Overlook Hotel, a summer resort isolated in the Rockies. As the winter caretaker, Jack’s responsibilities are to keep the resort in working order until the next vacation season. Jack has every reason not to take this job: He has learned that the hotel has a violent history, which includes the former caretaker’s murder of his family and the caretaker’s subsequent suicide. Moreover, his marriage is in trouble, he is fighting a drinking problem, and he is struggling with a tendency toward abusive behavior—he has just been dismissed from school following an assault upon a student and recently struck his own son in a fit of temper.
   Upon arriving at the Overlook, the family meets Hallorann, the cook, who immediately recognizes in Danny the gift of the “shining”—psychic powers that include precognition and telepathy (Danny has already had premonitory visions of a strange word scrawled in red letters, “REDRUM,” and of a menacing figure swinging a mallet). After warning the child of strange presences in the house and assuring Danny that he can use the “shining” if it becomes necessary to call for help, Hallorann departs, leaving the family alone. As the weeks pass, Jack and Danny begin to experience strange manifestations that hint at the hotel’s sinister past—conversations with the ghostly Grady (the former caretaker), the vision of a depraved masked ball, the apparition of a woman who committed suicide in Room 217, and hedgerow animals on the grounds that appear to move. In the basement, Jack discovers a scrapbook that contains news clippings of violent events in the hotel’s history. Eventually, Jack realizes that there are presences in the hotel that are attempting to influence him into committing acts of violence against Wendy and Danny. After an unsuccessful attempt to murder his wife, he is knocked unconscious by her and confined in the large hotel pantry.
   Meanwhile, Danny realizes that his vision of the word redrum is a mirror image of murder, and he uses his “shine” to send a telepathic call for help to Hallorann, who is summering in Florida. Rushing through the blizzard and fighting his way past the predatory hedge animals in the garden, he manages to get inside the Overlook. He confronts Jack, who has escaped from the pantry and is battering Wendy with a croquet mallet, but is overpowered. His murderous mallet upraised, Jack next turns to Danny. Caught between the destructive influence of the Overlook, which is bidding him kill his son, and the last vestiges of parental love for his son, Jack pauses while he fights a terrific moral battle within himself. At last he turns the mallet upon himself, disfiguring his face. In the ensuing confusion, Wendy, Danny, and Hallorann escape. In the meantime, the boiler of the Overlook, which has reached dangerously high pressure, explodes, destroying the Overlook and all its inhabitants, living and dead. The epilogue reveals the survivors living in western Maine, where Hallorann looks after Wendy and Danny. Commentator Charles Avinger suggests that this “restoration of order following horrific chaos” is a hallmark of classic tragedy: “Although Wendy, Danny, and Hallorann are physically and emotionally scarred by their experience, the novel’s optimistic epilogue suggests that they will recover from the nightmare of the Overlook. ”
   The Overlook Hotel is a classic example of what King has called “the Bad Place,” an “inhuman place that makes human monsters. ” Its rooms and corridors are haunted by horrific events and wicked characters that repeat endlessly in an incestuous embrace: “In the Overlook all things had a sort of life. It was as if the whole place had been wound up with a silver key. The clock was running. The clock was running. ” Jack Torrance’s emotional and psychological vulnerability to such a place sets him squarely alongside the haunted protagonists of other classic American haunted-house stories, dating back to Charles Brockden Brown’s 1798 classic, Wieland (which it resembles in many ways), and continuing through Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1961). King’s other works dealing with ghosts and hauntings include Christine (1983), about a haunted Plymouth automobile; and the short story “Sometimes They Come Back,” in which a schoolteacher is troubled by the spirits of teenagers from his past. Many critics complained that Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining failed in its departures from King’s basic story line and in its inability to present Jack as an essentially sympathetic father figure. “That one of the best films adapted from King’s fiction should meet such resistance from critics and fans,” writes Avinger, “attests to the popularity and power of the source novel, a highlight of King’s career and a classic of horror fantasy. ”
   ■ Avinger, Charles,“The Shining,” in Magill’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, vol. 3, Dawn P. Dawson, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Salem Press, 1996), pp. 826–827;
   ■ King, Stephen, On Writing:A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000);
   ■ Rhodes, Gary Don, “The Shining,” in Cinematic Hauntings, Gary J. Svehla and Susan Svehla, eds. (Baltimore, Md. : Midnight Marquee Press, 1996), pp. 261–283;
   ■ Williams,Tony,“The Shining,” in Novels into Film, John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh, eds. (New York: Facts On File, 1999), pp. 204–205;
   ■ Winter, Douglas E. , Stephen King: The Art of Darkness (New York: New American Library, 1984).
   2) Warner Bros. , 146 minutes, May 1980 Producers: Stanley Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Robert Fyer; Director: Kubrick; Screenplay: Diane Johnson and Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Stephen King; Cinematography: John Alcott;Art Direction: Leslie Tomkins; Assistant Director: Brian W. Cook; Costume Design: Milena Canonero; Makeup: Tom Smith; Sound Department: Dino DiCampo, Jack T. Knight,Wyn Ryder; Editor: Ray Lovejoy; Production Manager: Douglas Twiddy; Cast: Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Winifred “Wendy”Torrance), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman), Philip Stone (Delbert Grady), Joe Turkel (Lloyd),Anne Jackson (Doctor),Tony Burton (Larry Durkin), Lia Beldam (young woman in bath), Billie Gibson (old woman in bath), Barry Dennen (Bill Watson), Lisa Burns (Grady daughter), Louise Burns (Grady daughter), Robin Pappas (nurse), Alison Coleridge (Ullman’s secretary), Burnell Tucker (policeman), Jana Sheldon (stewardess), Kate Phelps (receptionist), and Norman Gay (injured guest with head wound/former caretaker).
   When STANLEY KUBRICK was looking for a subject dealing with the preternatural, he told Harlan Kennedy in 1980, he perused stacks of horror novels, flinging each one across the office and against the wall when it failed to please him. One day he came upon a story that intrigued him, and he exclaimed, “This is it!” He was reading STEPHEN KING’s 1977 novel, THE SHINING.
   Although King himself had written a screen adaptation of his novel, Kubrick decided against reading it, preferring to write it himself in collaboration with DIANE JOHNSON, a novelist and university professor he had met earlier when he was considering filming her suspense novel, The Shadow Knows (1974). He told MICHEL CIMENT that he was confident she would be an ideal collaborator. For her part, Johnson worked with Kubrick using what she called “the Socratic method,” in which they would ask each questions about the experiences, manner, and dress of the novel’s characters in an effort to flesh them out. They commenced working together in earnest in December 1977 and continued for the next three months. Every day, in the early afternoon Kubrick’s chauffeur picked her up at her London apartment and delivered her to Kubrick’s country house, where they would discuss each scene. The following day, she would submit her script revisions to him. “Stanley wants to make the best horror movie ever made,” declared Johnson in an article in the New York Times on November 6, 1978. Preproduction work transpired in Washington state, with location shots filmed at Montana’s Glacier National Park, Timberline Lodge near Mount Hood, and in Oregon. Four sound stages at the EMI-Elstree studios in London served for the sequences involving the Overlook Hotel and the garden maze. Lensing the proceedings were cinematographer JOHN ALCOTT and camera operator Garrett Brown. Typically, Kubrick worked on closed sets and forbade actors and crew members to give interviews about the project. A disastrous fire destroyed one of the sets in January 1979, incurring damages of more than $2 million for forcing the addition of several weeks to the shooting schedule.
   Kubrick’s film retains several of the basic elements of the novel. Jack Torrance (JACK NICHOLSON), his wife, Wendy (SHELLEY DUVALL), and son, Danny (DANNY LLOYD), move into a resort hotel in the Colorado Rockies. After losing his teaching position and struggling with a drinking problem, Jack had signed on to be caretaker of the summer resort for the winter, feeling that the undemanding job would give him time to realize his unfulfilled aspirations to become a successful author. His son, Danny, is possessed of a curious psychic ability, which lately includes frightening visions of a word crudely scrawled in red letters:“REDRUM. ”
   Right from the day of his arrival, Jack cannot shake the eerie feeling that he has lived in the hotel before, even though he cannot remember any prior visit. As the story develops, Jack begins to “shine,” that is, experience visions that seem to reflect aspects of a past life in the Overlook. “Maybe things that happen leave other kinds of traces behind,” Hallorann, the hotel cook, had said earlier. “Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who ‘shine’ can see. Just like they see things that haven’t happened yet, well, sometimes they see things that happened a long time ago. ” In the course of these extrasensory experiences, Jack encounters a bartender and a waiter in the hotel’s posh nightclub, the Gold Room, both of whom recognize him. Given the deference that both men show him, it appears that Jack was not a hotel employee during his former existence, but an honored guest—perhaps a successful author. The tip-off that Jack was not a mere caretaker in the establishment last time around is a photograph hanging unobtrusively in the hotel lobby among other pictures, which shows Jack posing with some other guests at a swanky party in the ballroom; the photo is dated July 4, 1921.
   Coming back to the same luxury hotel in his present existence as a miserable menial becomes a subconscious source of resentment and frustration for Jack, as does the fact that he has gotten absolutely nowhere on his writing project. Moreover, when he and his family become snowbound in the hotel as a result of a fierce storm, Jack finds the isolation and loneliness attendant on being marooned in the hotel—coupled with his painful awareness of his failure to make anything of himself as a writer—too much for him to bear.
   As Jack descends into madness, his trancelike states of shining degenerate into macabre visions of his previous life, although they had initially seemed so pleasant when he found himself chatting with the bartender and the waiter in the Gold Room and moving among the other guests. By contrast, in these later visions, the charming party guests with whom he had once frolicked have now been transformed into blood-spattered ghouls, cackling crones with decomposing flesh, and even skeletons covered with cobwebs. When Jack at one point enters one of the guest rooms, he sees a lovely nude woman giving him a come-hither look from the bathtub. When she steps from the tub and approaches him, he embraces her. She is instantly transformed into a hideous old hag with rotting flesh, cackling in maniacal glee as he recoils from her.
   Author Dennis Bingham quotes Paul Mayersberg as stating that the scene “in which Jack’s apparition of a beautiful woman turns into a zombie . . . is a rewrite of the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. In Psycho it is the lady in the shower who is threatened by a monster outside. In The Shining this is reversed. ” Meanwhile,Wendy is besieged by a host of phantom guests within the hotel late in the picture. A group of ghouls having a bizarre fancy-dress party suddenly materialize before her. She spies a man in a teddy bear costume performing fellatio on a gentleman in white tie and tails; and she is even toasted by another man, impeccably clothed in a tuxedo, who seems blithely unaware that he has a gaping wound in his forehead. Up to this point we may have assumed that all of Jack’s apparitions were figments of his fevered imagination. But when Wendy, who is patently sane, is terrorized by ghosts too, we realize that these spirits are absolutely real. As Kubrick says in James Howard’s book, at this point “you are left with no other explanation but the supernatural. ” At the film’s chilling climax, after the riddle of “REDRUM” has been divined, Jack finally goes totally berserk, and seeks to take out his wild anguish and mental suffering on his hapless wife and son, whom he stalks with an ax (rather than the croquet mallet of the novel) throughout the hotel grounds. At this point the film departs radically from King’s novel: Hallorann, who has returned to help Danny after receiving his telepathic call for help, is brutally cut down by Jack’s axe. Danny and Wendy escape. Jack wanders out into the hedge maze outside, where he freezes to death. The Overlook does not explode, as in the novel, but survives to claim its next victim. (Screenwriter Diane Johnson reports that she and Kubrick agreed that “blowing up the hotel was banal. ”)
   The Shining is a standout example of the horror film genre, because Kubrick often suggests, rather than spells out, the dark, disturbing implications of the grotesque happenings he depicts. As in the novel, Jack’s awareness that the hotel’s previous caretaker had killed his wife and children and then shot himself leaves us to infer that perhaps Jack has become so obsessed with this atrocity that he finally feels compelled, in the depths of his insanity, to repeat the savage crimes. Like Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Jack started out enjoying his visions of the past and wound up with his visions destroying him. For Jack ultimately became so haunted by the past that he lost his grip on the present and finally withdrew into a state of madness that destroyed him. He has retreated into his own maze, as it were. Indeed, Kubrick’s use of the Steadicam’s celebrated tracking shots through the endless hallways of the Overlook and the maze tunnels of the garden suggest, writes Gary Don Rhodes in his extensive examination of the film, that the Overlook (including its maze-patterned carpet) and the film itself “are both structured very much in the manner of a labyrinth. ” When Jack does chase Danny in the garden labyrinth,” notes Rhodes,“Wendy runs frantically about the hotel in much the same fashion—bumping into various dead ends and pockets of images and ghosts replaying themselves before her. ”
   Kubrick did not apologize for making a genre film, since he was interested in giving his audience a good scare. He added that he was fascinated by horror stories because they show the evil side of the human personality, and he was very much preoccupied with bringing to light the dark corners of the human psyche. Kubrick explained that he wanted his film to be “good enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. . . . I hope the audience has had a good fright and has believed the film while they were watching it. ” Indeed, The Shining is the kind of film that continues to linger in the filmgoer’s memory long after one has seen it.
   Although movie reviewers were divided about the picture, the moviegoing public was fairly unanimous in initially endorsing the film. In its first four days, it garnered $626,052 at the box office, the biggest opening WARNER BROS. had ever had in New York or Los Angeles. However, in subsequent weeks the box-office take dropped drastically. Nonetheless, The Shining was Kubrick’s most commercially successful film up to that time. Among those critics who gave the movie a favorable welcome was Richard Schickel in Time: “It is impossible not to admire Kubrick for flouting conventional expectations of his horror film” by virtually reinventing the horror genre in the movie, just as he reinvented the science-fiction genre in 2001. “Certainly he has asked much of Jack Nicholson, who must sustain attention in a hugely unsympathetic role, and who responds with a brilliantly crazed performance. ” Indeed, in a poll conducted by Premiere in 1999, Nicholson’s performance was voted by the magazine’s readership to be one of the 10 most memorable screen villains of all time. In his analysis of the film and the novel, Tony Williams notes that while the book depicts Jack and Wendy as victims of a dysfunctional family situation, “Kubrick satirically views them as part of a culture of grotesque comic-strip banality. ” Far from achieving his dream of becoming a great writer, Jack is finally reduced to typing out nonsense words, endlessly repeated, on ream after ream of paper. Moreover, Williams continues, Jack becomes “a dehumanized ‘Big Bad Wolf ’ or Roadrunner (with ax rather than roque mallet), pursuing Danny as Wile E. Coyote and attempting to break down the family bathroom door while voicing banalities from American television-‘Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!’”
   Stephen King had reservations about Kubrick’s film of his novel, complaining it abandoned the complex and essentially sympathetic relationship between the “shining” Danny and his emotionally disturbed father. “You have got to love the people,” King had written years before. “There is no horror without love and feeling . . . because horror is the contrasting emotion to our understanding of all the things that are good and normal. ” Later, upon the release of the picture, King commented in the New York Times, “You know what? I think [Stanley] wants to hurt people with this movie. I think that he really wants to make a movie that will hurt people. ”
   In 1996 King wrote the teleplay for a five-hour TV miniseries derived from his story and served as executive producer of the miniseries as well. It starred Rebecca De Mornay and Steven Weber as Wendy and Jack Torrance, under the direction of Mick Garris. Given the running time of the miniseries, King could obviously include all of the novel’s subplots, which Kubrick did not have room for in his feature film. At other times, however, King’s teleplay seemed to be following Kubrick’s adaptation of his story, rather than his own novel, with Weber apparently imitating Nicholson’s performance in the Kubrick film as Jack descends into madness in the teleplay. Surprisingly, King ends his TV script with a scene that is not in his novel. James Howard describes “the cringingly awful closing scene in which we see a late-teenage Danny graduating from college ten years later. ” As Wendy sits proudly in the audience, “Jack’s immaculately tailored ghost makes a special appearance on stage,” to reassure his son,“I love you. ” This syrupy ending makes for an embarrassingly sentimental finale for the telefilm; and more than anything else in the TV movie, it gives the lie to King’s contention that the miniseries was more faithful to his book than Kubrick’s movie. Indeed, in ruder, less experienced hands, the film’s supernatural effects might have suffered. But Kubrick delivers them with a silken twist, obscuring King’s schematic narrative with filmic smoke and mirrors. His film is elegant, solidly played, and frequently gripping. “Kubrick’s movie,” Schickel contended, “will be more than just another horror yarn. It will have to be reckoned with on the highest level” of cinematic art.
   ■ Bingham, Dennis, “A Reception History of The Shining,” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996), pp. 285–306;
   ■ Caldwell, Larry, and Samuel Umiand, “The Play Metaphor in Kubrick’s The Shining,Literature/Film Quarterly 14, no. 2 (spring 1986), 106–111;
   ■ Ciment, Michel, Kubrick, trans. Gilbert Adair (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1982), pp. 180–216;
   ■ Combs, Richard,“Kubrick Talks:The Making of The Shining,Film Comment 3, no. 5 (September–October, 1996): 81–84;
   ■ Howard, James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999), pp. 145–157;
   ■ Jameson, Richard, “Kubrick’s Shining,” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, ed. Mario Falsetto (New York: G. K. Hall, 1996), pp. 243–252;
   ■ Kennedy, Harlan, “Kubrick Goes Gothic?” American Film, June 1980, n. p. ;
   ■ Manchel, Frank,“Family Relationships in The Shining,Literature/ Film Quarterly 33, no. 1 (winter 1995): 61–78;
   ■ Nelson, Thomas, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), pp. 195–227;
   ■ Romney, Jonathan,“Resident Phantoms: The Shining,Sight and Sound 9 (September 1999): 8–11;
   ■ Schickel, Richard, “Red Herrings and Refusals: The Shining,Time, June 2, 1980, p. 69;
   ■ Smith, Greg, “Real Horrorshow: The Shining,Literature/Film Quarterly 25, no. 4 (fall 1997): 300–306.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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