Monday, October 23, 2006

Day 5: In which all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy

The Shining is the first of two Stephen King adaptations I plan on covering here. It's almost not fair - with source material like this, how can you NOT make a good movie? Oh yeah, it's called Dreamcatcher.

To be fair, Kubrick's Shining deviates substantially from the novel, so we should be careful not to give too much credit to the source (that may be one of the stupidest soundest things I've ever said.) There's already a shitload of material out there that analyzes its thematic content, so I want to focus on the pure horror aspect of it.

What is most impressive to me about this film is the way that Kubrick is able to sustain such an overwhelming sense of dread for 145 straight minutes. It's fucking relentless. From the opening scene - hell, from the rolling of the credits - you can feel it in your bones: absolutely nothing pleasant is going to happen, and this is all going to end very, very poorly. Early scenes like the family driving in the car to the hotel give us no more than a whiff of just how nasty Jack is going to turn out to be, and leave us tense and uneasy through the middle of the film as we expect him to snap at any moment.

Something that is very effective is little Danny. Every time he's on screen, every feeling of dread we have is compounded exponentially. This is not insignificant, as the kid's got a good chunk of screen time. There's just something sickening about a little kid who is at the mercy of "shining" with a frakkin' haunted house, and who lives in paralyzing fear of his father. By the time we get to the REDRUM/MURDER scene, our dread is converted to outright terror. I've seen this movie maybe 7 or 8 times, and last night I was STILL frightened to the point of barely breathing during that part.

And that's pretty much why I enjoy this film so much. It's a thrill, but in no way a cheap one. Kubrick is masterful at painting an oppressive, claustrophobic, and terrifying atmosphere in a movie about a house that's as expansive as they come. Rock and roll.

Tomorrow: Poltergeist.

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At 8:11 PM, October 24, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

and, on top of all that good stuff, it just makes me really want to ride a bigwheel around a hotel.


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