Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
“Wendy, baby… I think you hurt my head real bad. I’m dizzy. I think I need a doctor.” Today’s axe-swinging edition features Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 hedge maze of horrors, The Shining, and Peter Medak‘s The Changeling, released in that same year. After this, you’ll give anything for a drink. Hell, you might even give your god-damned soul for just a glass of beer…
Based on Stephen King‘s 1977 novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange), The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a writer who takes a job as the off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel. His young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Jack, influenced by one such supernatural entity, descends into madness and sets out to murder his wife and son.
That Creepy Scene:
Wendy (Shelley Duvall) runs through the Overlook Hotel in terror as Jack prowls the grounds on a homicidal rampage. With a knife in her trembling hands, Wendy climbs the stairs of the hotel where she glimpses ‘the dogman’ – a man in a dog costume, performing fellatio on a man in a tuxedo.
The dogman’s bare ass can be seen hanging out the open back of the dog costume as he goes down on his partner. At this moment, we are voyeurs – watching this bizarre sex act through the eyes of Wendy. With a dreadful flourish of music, the two lovers sit straight up and fix their gaze at Wendy. The camera zooms in and Wendy flees in horror.
“Wendy? Darling? light of my life! I’m not gonna hurt you. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just gonna bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash ’em right the fuck in!”
Kubrick’s The Shining is an impenetrable, amorphous film. While I cannot doubt Stanley Kubrick’s brilliance as a filmmaker, I find myself conflicted by his interpretation of Stephen King’s novel. Interpretation is perhaps the wrong word, considering Kubrick took only the barebones plot elements of the novel and infused the screenplay with his own ideas.
Nicholson’s Jack Torrance is established at the film’s opening as someone on the edge of insanity. From the first moment he appears on screen, Jack is irritated with his family and filled with resentment and contempt. Unlike his literary counterpart, Jack’s final redemption never occurs in Kubrick’s film. He’s just a psychotic alcoholic with a bad case of cabin fever, providing an over-the-top performance that fails to truly capture any sort of depth or development in character.
Kubrick’s version of Jack Torrance seems closer to HAL-9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) or Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange) than the conflicted, sympathetic character King created. While Kubrick’s film is no doubt an impeccably crafted work of art, it is void of any sort of understanding of the human condition. Weird visions of men in dog costumes and hallways flooded with crushing waves of blood are certainly horrific, but it’s hard to care about any of Kubrick’s characters.
In the novel, the ghosts of the Overlook seek to possess Jack Torrance to get him to murder his son, Danny. if Danny dies in the hotel, his “shining” ability will be absorbed – along with all the other supernatural energies that exist there – so the Overlook can become more powerful and extend its powers beyond the grounds. In the novel, the hotel itself is a sentient entity – a manifestation of evil.
In the film, the intentions of the ghosts are ambiguous at best – apparently they want to “reclaim” Jack, who is a reincarnation of a previous hotel caretaker, as hinted at by the 1920s photograph of Torrance at the end of the film. In Kubrick’s adaptation, Jack is the focus of the ghosts’ attention – not Danny (even though Grady expresses an interest in Danny’s ability).
There are plenty of other differences: the topiary animals of the novel are replaced with a hedge maze, there is no scrapbook or boiler room explosion, and as previously mentioned, there is no redemption for Jack (who helps Wendy and Jack escape the hotel, sacrificing himself to the evil place). Instead, the static-psycho Jack gets lost in the hedge maze and freezes to death.
I don’t expect a film adaptation to follow its source material page-by-page, nor do I have any interest on reviewing a film based on what it isn’t, but it must be said that Kubrick’s film is entirely shallow in the characterization department.
Chilling? Yes. Visually devastating? Absolutely. The horror is only surface level however, as the one-dimensional characters are mere set decorations for Kubrick, who seems too preoccupied with his own meticulous composition to bother with character development or emotional depth. The result is a film that is cold, empty, and meaningless – which may be why it’s so unnerving.
After his wife and daughter are tragically killed in a car accident, composer John Russell (George C. Scott) moves to Seattle, in search of a quiet place to rest and continue writing music. John visits the Seattle Historical Preservation Society, where Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere) shows him an old, abandoned estate in the outlying countryside.
John takes the house and keeps himself busy by renovating. After settling in, he begins having nightmares about the death of his wife and daughter. Because of the unresolved trauma and grief in his life, John is open to communications from the house’s ghostly occupants.
Pursuing a loud, repetitive pounding noise somewhere in the upper floors of the estate, John discovers the apparition of a young boy drowning in a tub. After questioning Claire, John uncovers disturbing parallels between his visions and the secret past of the mansion…
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