Halloween Retrospective 2021- The Shining and Doctor Sleep
Where to stream in Canada:
- The Shining: Starz
- Doctor Sleep: Netflix
With it being Spooky Season, what better time than now to go back to Stanley Kubrick's 1980' horror hit The Shining. As well as its 2019 follow up, Doctor Sleep directed by one of my favourite horror directors currently working in Mike Flanagan.
Admittedly, this was my first time checking out Kubrick's iconic film, though I knew all of the references- from the creepy twin girls, to Danny speeding down those iconic carpets of the Outlook Hotel, and of course everything about Jack Nicholsons' character Jack Torrance including his iconic "Heres Johnny" line. The influence that Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King had on horror movies moving forward was clear.
Getting to witness it first hand was something truly behold. Many horror movies that were made a few decades back have held up in terms of the way they've aged both in visuals and the strength of their scripts. The Shining is not one of those. Kubrick's camerawork is critical, as he draws you into this claustrophobic journey that makes you feel the tight spaces and jarring corners of the Overlook Hotel this massive building that swallows the Torrance's up whole and eats at their spirits, and sanity little by little. The use of red throughout it sets the atmosphere, and singlehandedly brings the hairs on the viewers arms to a still as the rooms colours tell a story of their own. The score is shrill, and thrill, and probably one of the better scores i've ever had in a horror movie- its stuck with me even a week after my viewing.
The storytelling is filled with mysteries, and a lot of it Kubrick leaves lots of what is going on and what the Shining is, and what exactly is happening to the families mental state- are these visions, are they going crazy? Are they being haunted? What is with that ending photo? all of these questions are left to the viewer to decipher what they take away from it, which is part of the fun of the film- my girlfriend, and I each had separate interpretations of what we just watched leaving plenty of discussion on our thoughts.
The only thing that everybody could agree on was Jack Nicholson's performance, as he dives head first into madness. Right from the beginning Jack Torrance appears as a scumbag, an abusive ex drunk that hides behind faux politeness amongst men and peers but in his eyes you could see the darkness he carried within him. He was covered in gasoline and the Outlook Hotel was the lit match that sparked him over the edge. Nicholson is terrifying even when he's subdue and not over the top does he come off as dark and intimidating ready to boil over and jump through the screen to take you with his wife and child.
I won't do much retrospective for the 2019 followup movie, but what I can say about it now that i've finally caught both, is that i am heavily surprised at how mixed the reviews from my fellow peers was for this film. I absolutely adored it, and watching it right after the 1980 original- made me love this one even more.
We finally get an even more deeper look into the Shine, and the universe that it takes part in becomes even larger. Theres so many layers to be explored, and Flanagan tackles them accordingly through the eyes of an older Danny Torrance, and a new set of eyes and another person with a strong shine in Abra Stone.
Flanagan has this way of making death seem less scary and telling beautiful stories in the face of passing away, and that's once again touched on in a conversation between Danny and an elderly gentlemen at the hospice he works at. Thats where Flanagan is at his best telling a deeper story that just has the horror happening around it, being able to show glimpses of a beautiful rose even with snakes and other creatures covering it. Thats what Flanagan succeeds at, and he does it again, this time giving Danny Torrance a way to redeem and fight back against the obvious mental scarring that would have happened as a child. As well as giving him purpose in a mentorship role.
Rebecca Ferguson is absolutely horrifying, and my favourite part of the follow up. She is the ultimate villain, and doesn't need monster make up or to look like a ghoul to terrify the viewer- her presence alone swallows up the screen, and her lust for longevity and carelessness for people of all ages is so frightening and so uncomfortable. The one murder scene half way through was so uncomfortable, and we don't even witness the gruesome horror fully- mostly seeing it from the one sufferings perspective, seeing those terrifying eyes as Ferguson's Rose the Hat spoke sweet nothings and lusted over the pain her and her pose was causing.
Flanagan also successfully tells the story without needing to rely purely on nostalgia, something that many series brought back into the 2000's and forward have struggled with. We get plenty of references, but the movie doesn't need those to be successful because the new story that it is telling is just as powerful in its own regard. Rather using the nostalgia as an added bonus to the powerful story being told first hand.