Do you hear that? It is the haunting music that signals the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. The camera drifts through the air gracefully, as though it is stalking Jack Nicholson’s car on its journey through this beautiful mountain pass and immediately makes the luscious cinematography so much clearer on the big screen. A new dimension has already been added to this staple of the horror genre by remastering it and returning it to its home in the cinema.
The film has a very simple setup, if you weren’t already aware. Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, decides to take up the lonely position of winter caretaker at the picturesque, yet secluded, Overlook Hotel. He brings his family, including his son Danny (who has a strange ability that some call “The Shining”), to stay in the hotel alone with him for the six month stretch. The history of the hotel includes a case of a previous winter caretaker getting cabin fever and subsequently murdering his family. Oh and the hotel was built on an Ancient Indian Burial Ground. Put simply, the film clearly doesn’t try subtlety in revealing that the Torrances might be in for a winter of discontent.
And so the plot develops, Jack Torrance’s temper begins to shorten as he becomes more and more frustrated with the seclusion and the lack of productivity with his writing project. Simultaneously, this plot runs alongside Danny Torrance making some spine chilling discoveries in the hotel, which take on a whole new level of terror in this remastered version. All of this builds to the film’s dramatic climax – I’ve seen this film several times, yet my knuckles were still white by the end.
Jack Nicholson’s acting, of course, deserves commendation. We all know from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that he can act crazy very well and The Shining does little to dent this reputation. The occasional nervous licks of the lips almost remind the audience of the most notable psychopathic villain of recent years in cinema – Heath ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Shelley Duvall, as Wendy Torrance, successfully does terrified screaming, which is all that could be asked of her. As well as this Danny Lloyd is excellent as the Torrance’s child with a strange gift.
Despite all the strengths, The Shining is certainly a flawed film. Parts of the plot don’t knit together and aren’t explained in the same way as they are in Stephen King’s novel. It is clear to see why Stephen King had his reservations with this adaptation, as his coherent novel suddenly becomes disjointed. However, it is this incoherence that adds to the mystique of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. Furthermore, it is difficult to adapt 447 pages into an entirely coherent two hour narrative. Therefore I find the best approach to the novel & film is to treat them as separate entities based on the same premise – they even have entirely different endings.
This extended remastered version of The Shining adds to everything that made the film so notable in the first place. With the extra 25 minutes, Kubrick adds more terror to proceedings and even manages to make the sub-plots slightly more coherent than in the original British cut. The remastered colours enhance the wonderful cinematography and of course add more chills. However, the difference between the two versions is not very noticeable to anyone but obsessives and aficionados. Whichever version it is, seize on this opportunity to revisit a horror classic on the big screen, while you still have the chance.