Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—The Shining (1980) ***½

R, 146 min.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, Stephen King (novel)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson

Now that I’ve watched Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” again since seeing the theory laden documentary “Room 237” about the many various possible meanings of Kubrick’s vision, I have come to the conclusion that “Room 237” couldn’t be more full of shit if it tried. There is one theory presented in that so-called documentary that holds any weight, and it the one anyone could gather from watching the movie, which is that it is an indictment against the treatment of the American Indian by the U.S. Government. Of course, that was a popular theme in horror movies at the time. Steven Spielberg’s “Poltergeist”, produced two years later, but written before “The Shining” was made has the very same theme. In fact, haunted houses built on top of Indian burial grounds had been around in the horror genre for a while, so the fact that the producers of “Room 237” were able to put that one together is no great feat.

In my review of that film, I wondered why none of the so-called “experts” appeared on screen. That’s possibly because the writer/director made them and their theories up. He couldn’t show them on screen because then Sally might recognize her high school sweetheart who went off to become and actor in L.A. and now he’s claiming to be some sort of cult horror film expert in a bogus documentary. No, it’s very likely the people who claim to know what “The Shining” is really about in that movie are serious. It’s fun to find hidden meanings in things, but sometimes people see what they want to see.

The doc claims that people were confused by Kubrick’s choice to enter into the horror genre. Horror is not a far cry from what Kubrick was already doing. What is “A Clockwork Orange”? It’s science fiction of a sort, but a very horrific kind. Even “Eyes Wide Shut” dabbles in horror. Horror is a natural fit for Kubrick, and Stephen King’s story of an alcoholic schoolteacher who looses his grip on reality after taking a job as the winter caretaker of a hotel haunted by its own past is perfect for the themes which Kubrick often explores, those of a man out of touch with the world he’s supposed to inhabit. A man railing against the system, in this case the system is his reality, which he escapes by embracing the horrific and colorful history of the hotel. In order to make his escape complete he must slaughter his own family. Tom Cruise’s character in “Eyes Wide Shut” skirts a similar line, but ultimately makes a very different choice than Jack Torrance. No, “The Shining” makes perfect sense for Kubrick without inventing a bunch of far-fetched theories about it.

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