Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days Until Halloween - The Shining

"I'm sorry to differ with you, sir.  But you are the caretaker.  You've always been the caretaker."

31 days until Halloween.

I'm going to see if I can write about a movie a day (in the vein of all things horrific, of course), until the 31st of October.

Today's choice is: The Shining.

I picked The Shining because I'm re-reading the book -- which I'm doing because the sequel, Doctor Sleep, just came out; and it felt like a perfect time to revisit the original.

The big debate about The Shining has always been of the movie vs. novel variety.  Some people prefer the novel.  Some people prefer the movie.

I must admit that I have equal love for both.  Stephen King has not been so magnanimous, expressing at every possible opportunity his disdain for the film.  He once called it akin to a great gleaming Cadillac without a motor.  Style over substance.  Misogynistic.  Cold and empty.

Now, I love King.  Barring any short stories or missives that have been published in exclusively rare and expensive editions, I have read everything he's ever written -- and often more than once.

But I disagree with him about the movie version of The Shining.

I think King is way too close to it to have an objective opinion.  Because at the end of the day, the movie is absolutely not the book.  His version of the Torrance family is not the same as Kubrick's; nor are the incidents that occur to them at The Overlook Hotel.

Now there's no question that the movie would not exist without King's book -- but there's also little question that the movie is pure Kubrick.  The debate over movie vs. novel in regards to The Shining has existed as long as it has because of King's incomparable popularity.  You don't hear much of a movie vs. novel debate when it comes to Jaws or Jurassic Park because I feel that the success and popularity of the film adaptations far outweigh those of the respective novels.  I don't mean that as a slight on Benchley and Crichton -- but their individual fan bases are not as densely populated as King's.

Back to the film...

I think Kubrick's The Shining is the high water mark of the haunted house genre.  Year after year after year -- the film is repeatedly in the Top 10 Horror Film surveys that pop up around Halloween.

Two years after it's release, John Carpenter's The Thing (also an adaptation, as well as a remake) hit theaters.  Carpenter's film is a masterpiece (although it certainly did not receive such acclaim in the swept up in the emotional tide summer of E.T. that it had the misfortune to follow), but I would venture that Carpenter was influenced strongly by Kubrick's film.  The wintry isolation of The Thing is surpassed only by that of The Shining.  They are all stuck, and fucked.

There's very little I can write to convince people to see The Shining, as its popularity reveals how most people have already viewed it.

But hey, it's only the first one, with thirty more to follow.  I'll see if I can try and make a convincing and converting argument in some of the films to follow.