Written by: Scotty
Can solitude be a bad thing? No one will ever be able to answer that question for sure, except for maybe Jack Nicholson. Playing Jack Torrance in the classic movie The Shining, Jack seems to have many underlying issues that drive him to all out craziness. Although he seems to have the love of his wife and son Danny, that does not seem to be enough while taking over the caretaker duties at the Overlook hotel.
Now what kind of trip would be complete to the Stanley Hotel without watching their signature movie, The Shining? It is on repeat nonstop all day and all night. Even though this is one of my favorite movies, I have never thought to write a review about why it seems to speak to me. I love the characters in this film and Kubrick did a fantastic job in his telling of the story that unlocked the fear and dread that being cut off from civilization could really cause.
Now this movie does vary from the great King novel, but it was made to terrify the audience and for most people, plants coming to life doesn’t really seem to do that, even in the early eighties. If you have not read the book, or seen this movie you may want to do so before you read what I have to say with the spoilers that may persist.
Here is your brief summary of what happens in this great film. Jack Torrance, an out of work teacher is looking for work that will provide him with money and time to work on his part time writing career. The Overlook Hotel reached out to this family man, even though he was an admitted alcoholic that lost his job and almost his marriage due to his lack of control. Being sober for a time, Jack has regained the love of his wife and son, even after breaking his son’s arm in a fit of rage. With the family back together and on the same page, they are all brought up to take care of this majestic resort over the long winter. With the great storms that hit this region, they will be cut off from the outside world. The roads become blocked off and with an extra heavy snow, the phones go down as well.
With only a CB radio to communicate with the ranger's station, the family tries their hardest to make it through the long hard winter, but Jack seems to be getting more and more obsessed with his job of taking care of the hotel and his writing. With this obsession, he starts to takeout all of his inner frustrations on the ones that he loves. The new found hatred for his family starts off as verbal, but quickly escalates into physical threats when they are doing nothing but distracting him from what he is supposed to be doing. That is as far as I can go without giving spoilers galore. STOP now if you have not read the book or seen this movie.
So what really grabbed my attention about this film, is how quickly the lack of companionship can really change a person’s state of mind. Growing up, I was more of a quiet person that never wanted or felt that I needed the attention of others. When seeing this put in movie form, I knew I would need to change my ways a bit. Watching the progression of Jack Torrance when put into the situation of being shut off from his old friends and vices, he tries to hold it together and admits to his imaginary bartender that he still loves his family, but is sick and tired of them trying to correct his way of doing things. All Work and No Play Make Jack a Dull Boy, sums this up nicely.
Trying to keep his focus on what is most important to him, taking care of the hotel and his writing, Jack seems fine. But once he is provoked, no matter how little, he does not have a way of controlling his urges to harm whomever is pressing his buttons. This could have been set off by being cut off from the world, his work being a failure in his own eyes, or a haunted hotel playing with his mind. It could be a combination of all three. What could really dive a person crazy, in my eyes, it has to be being overall disappointed in one’s self. You combine that with the distrust you have with the ones you are living with and of course being in a place that is cut off from the world, who could you open up to then? If you don’t trust the ones you are with, you will never be able to voice your issues…and go crazy.
Now little Danny, Jack’s son has a gift that is shown numerous times in the movie, the gift of Shining. Some people Shine, and some people don’t. Danny is able to tell that there is something interesting at the Overlook hotel, but is not able to put a finger on it. He is told that nothing in the hotel can hurt him and although the visions of the hotels tainted past are very lifelike, they seem to feed off of Danny's ability, growing stronger. These visions keep the boy at odds with his mother and father, and Danny’s defensive system kicks in, locking him out of his own mind, to not be harmed by the place that would drive someone of weaker mind into madness.
Now Danny’s mother, Wendy Torrance does not get tormented by this hotel, but she can feel the trouble brewing between her and her husband. Her husband snapping for no reason, she knows that she needs to protect her son and is looking for a way to escape the secluded location. Not knowing what her husband is capable of, she finds one problem after another leading up to the grand finale. With only her son’s wellbeing in mind, her mind is opened up to the torments of the Overlook hotel and is able to see what she could only assume is what her husband has been exposed too.
My favorite character in this film is Dick Hallorann. The head of all of the staff at the Overlook. He, like Danny has the gift of Shining. Knowing the secrets that the hotel holds, he warns the Torrance family that this is not a place for the weak and does his best to protect them from what could only be considered their impending doom. While he rests in his off season retreat in Florida, he receives a message via the shine from young Danny that there is trouble on the horizon. Trying as hard as he can to get ahold of the family, Dick is met with resistance from the hotel. He rushes back to his home away from home to try to protect the family from the hotel and more so from themselves. His efforts are without fail, buying the innocents more time to escape the rage of their provider. Although Dick dies quickly, he is nonetheless a hero in my eyes.
Then you have the Overlook hotel. I am not a person that likes to think that an inanimate object is a character, but in this movie, the Overlook should have been given the top billing. The hotel is or could be the key reason why people are drawn to madness. With its shady past, the Overlook holds on to all that had gone wrong, and has soaked it all in with all of the years of hate and dispair. The building could be much more alive than the people staying or working inside of it. The walls can talk, the rooms can come to life and the building can bleed. Although this can only be seen by the people that open themselves up to this torment, the Overlook is alive and looking for its next victim.
Could it be one of the greatest movies ever? I think so. But that is all up to the viewers. There is nothing that should be changed about how this movie was made. To this day, I still happen to get a bit squeamish when seeing the two little girls standing in the hall, their voices in unison; ‘Come play with us Danny, forever and ever and ever.’ Although, I must admit if an offer like this, to be a winter caretaker of a grand resort ever arose for me to do, I would be more than willing take it. Let’s just hope that I don’t get snowed in.