Well, that was a disappointing two hours. I hadn’t seen this thing since the 80s and couldn’t remember whether it was any good or not, so when I bumped into a widescreen version last week I grabbed it. Turns out this is one of the most woefully overrated horror movies in the history of the genre. How anyone over the age of 10 could be scared by this thing is beyond me. I guess the music is quite effective in places, but everything else sucks. The cinematography sucks, making the thing look more like a drama than a horror movie. The story is confusing and we are never really told what the fuck happened to poor Jack. Was he, as Kubrick has claimed, a re-incarnation of a previous caretaker? And if so why did the ghosts decide to drive him nuts? Was he absorbed into the ghost world once he died, as seems to have happened with the caretaker who killed his family? And if the latter, why would he end up in the photo? The whole thing is clumsy as hell.
Then there’s Nicholson, who is totally miscast and spends most of the movie hamming it up like Vincent Price in a Corman Poe movie. Half the time I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to be cringing or laughing! “Heeere’s Johnny!” sure as hell don’t sound scary to me. There’s also the way that the character so easily gives in to the ghosts’ demands that he kill his family. Totally unbelievable – one would expect some sort of clash of wills, but no, it’s a case of “You want me to kill my family? Sure, no worries. Would right now be okay?” Absurd, or as Homer Simpson once put it, “Why would I want to kill my family?” As for the acting overall, the little boy did a pretty good job, despite being hampered by a ridiculous talking finger, and for the most part Duvall was okay as was even Nicholson himself – assuming the hamminess of the performance was Kubrick’s idea rather than his own. But all this simply cannot overcome the sheer absurdity of Nicholson’s performance – good ham is still ham.
And why go to the trouble of bringing Scatman Crothers all the way from Florida to put an ax in his chest as soon as he gets through the door?!?! Surely, in the entire history of cinema, there has never been a more convoluted, more oblique, more ham-fisted way to provide some characters with a getaway vehicle! I guess some of the visuals are nice – gotta love the kitschy beauty of that carpet in room 237 – but the relentless use of symmetry eventually made me want to hurl.
Wrong actor, wrong performance, wrong just about everything. The Shining is far from being crap, but how it came to be regarded as a classic of the genre is one of cinema’s great mysteries – so much so that one suspects there is some sort of cultural or political agenda behind it. I just can’t believe that all these critics praising it really were scared while watching it. Frankly, were it not for being able to say “I have watched it,” i would be calling this a waste of two hours.