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"Here's Johnny!" vs. "Boo!"
October 31, 2013 8:52 PM   Subscribe

In celebration of Halloween, The Dissolve has devoted three long posts to The Shining: a keynote examining the film and King's relationship to it, a staff discussion, and a critical comparison of the film with the 1997 TV miniseries written by King. (Scrubbed the show from your brain? Let this episode of Nostalgia Critic refresh your memory.)
posted by Going To Maine (38 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The red VW couldn't put itself back together like Christine.
posted by planetesimal at 9:23 PM on October 31, 2013


I've said it elsewhere and I'll say it here: someone should cut the miniseries down to match the movie as closely as possible.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ever see this on-the-set behind the scenes documentary? Some really interesting glimpses of the working environment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had never yet been introduced to the Nostalgia Critic and I hope to never see him again. Absolutely insufferable.
posted by komara at 10:12 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly I've always found the prospect of being secluded at the Overlook all winter writing a novel to be incredibly seductive.

But then I'm probably the sort of person who'd get sucked right into that 1920s ballroom ghost portrait

I'd be in there, trying too hard to fit in, wearing a pork-pie hat and a dickey
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:43 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Nostalgia Critic subscribes to Weird Al's theory that humor is made of a large quantity of high energy behaviors in succession.
posted by batfish at 11:02 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kubrick's a genius and King's a hack, is there anything more to be said?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:37 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kubrick's a genius and King's a hack, is there anything more to be said?

That the genius thought the hack's work would make a great film, and it did?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:42 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]



Ever see this on-the-set behind the scenes documentary ? Some really interesting glimpses of the working environment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on October 31 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Also check out this recreation for a British TV ad
posted by Bwithh at 11:56 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Nostalgia Critic subscribes to Weird Al's theory that humor is made of a large quantity of high energy behaviors in succession.

Nostalgia Critic : Weird Al :: Mick Garris : Stanley Kubrick
posted by EmGeeJay at 12:27 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


And like Jack, The Overlook is a dry drunk, a booze-saturated place that has managed to eschew alcohol for whole seasons at a time while retaining the toxic air and creepy vibes of a whiskey-addled pleasure palace of über-perversity.

Fabulous stuff!
posted by Monkeymoo at 3:30 AM on November 1, 2013


Yeah, Rabin's keynote is a great piece of criticism.

I'm really liking The Dissolve.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:46 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, regarding the title of this post... The comparison article gives King's original (i.e. the novel's) version of Jack's exclamation upon breaking through the door, and I think it's more chilling than the version in either movie.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:58 AM on November 1, 2013


"Goodbye, Daddy"
"GOOOOOOODBYYYYYE" sez exploding flaming Jack Torrance.

I've said it before and will say it again: Stephen King needs 1) a good editor who won't back down 2) to stay away from all and every visual medium.

Under the Dome TV show? I mean really.

Petulant stuff about how King doesn't like Kubrick's Shining at the end of Dr. Sleep? I mean really.
posted by angrycat at 4:03 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The funny thing for me about reading the Shining fairly recently is that I was aware that King's problem with the Shining (the film) is that Nicholson is dangerous from the start while his book version was a more sympathetic character who falls because of the creeeepy house. And while its true that Nicholson is definitely very unhinged, I actually prefer that. An ambiguity is then present as to whether the hotel causes his behaviour at all, or if he was ready to go anyway.

Worse yet, in the book Torrence is an alcoholic who has alreayd indulged in domestic abuse. Every thought he has is poison, and I find myself detesting this piece of crap, and wishing Wendy would take her son as far away as possible from him. So its weird to me that parts of the book kind of want me to root for him, while I just want him to get eaten by a hedge monster as soon as possible.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:23 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the article: "The focus on personal, minute, realistic detail that makes [King's] writing real on the page makes it feel fussy and artificial onscreen, unless it’s filtered through someone who understands how the language of cinema and the language of novels differ."

Yes. I even said "yes" out loud in my apartment just now when I read that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Needs more Room 237 bonkers interpretation of imagined symbolism.
posted by graphnerd at 6:05 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


> King's problem with the Shining (the film) is that Nicholson is dangerous from the start while his book version was a more sympathetic character who falls because of the creeeepy house [...] Worse yet, in the book Torrence is an alcoholic who has alreayd indulged in domestic abuse

When you read The Shining it's a horror story about alcoholism; when you watch it it's not. Part of the horror in the novel is that for bits you can identify or at least side with Jack, even though he may very well tip over into something horrible in the near future - maybe worse than what he's done in the past, for all he sincerely regrets it (and, to a certain extent, lies to himself about it). Yeah, everyone's lives would be easier with him gone but for now they're trapped with him and they hope he stays stable, but there's this strange outside force acting on him and they can't really know how much longer he'll be safe to be around.
posted by postcommunism at 6:13 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I much prefer the European edit of the movie, despite the loss of 23 minutes....

The worst extra US bit is that terrible shot of them skeletons and cobwebs...

There's just no need for it! The European version of The Shining is a masterclass in restraint...
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:36 AM on November 1, 2013


Kubrick's a genius and King's a hack, is there anything more to be said?

That the genius thought the hack's work would make a great film, and it did?


I think he would have made the same film from any source material. That is the deliciousness of it. Kubrick's contribution essentially didn't rely on the book. He built an impossible maze, both outside the Overlook, and the film itself, then hid it in King's novel.
posted by 0 answers at 6:58 AM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


God! That scene! I was shocked when the Dissolve guy said it was the most terrifying bit. It's laughable.

Didn't Kubrick add it to mollify the studio (which wanted a proper "scary movie" element)? Although I can't imagine Kubrick agreeing to such a thing.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:59 AM on November 1, 2013


So since I'm unemployed and nursing a bad back, I've been watching a lot of classic movies on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon, trying to watch as many of Ebert's Great Movies as possible (I'm up to 36%).

This week I watched Griffith's Broken Blossoms and was amazed how the climactic scene* in that silent is almost exactly like the "Here's Johnny" scene in The Shining. Googling tells me that it wasn't exactly an original insight but it was a neat wow moment for me.

*Warning 96 year old spoiler
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


graphnerd: Needs more Room 237 bonkers interpretation of imagined symbolism.

Some parts were entirely plausible. The scene of the car crash with the beetle that was the color of the car in the book as Kubricks way of saying "it's my movie" to King, for example. The simultaneous play of the film backwards and forwards was neat, if not intentional. The plotting of Danny's ride around the set was downright facinating.

The hidden moon hoax admission and the Calumet cans? Stretches disbelief until disbelief can play for the NBA.
posted by dr_dank at 7:33 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In King's notes to Doctor Sleep he says that he has people coming up to him saying the Kubrick movie was the scariest movie ever, and King says he has a hard time understanding how that could be true. It's like duuuuude that Kubrick was genius enough to make the noise of Danny's trike as he rolls through the different parts of the Overlook scary is just one minor brilliant detail of a movie that is full of them.

I do love parts of King, and his book On Writing is absolutely wonderful, but damn if I wouldn't spend money I don't have to have an hour with him where he is forced to give an explanation of exactly how is implausible that The Shining wasn't scary. It's like King, you're a freakin' millionaire, calm down.

My armchair psychological analysis is that King is smarting from the fact that some people call him a hack, and so he drives himself more and more to work to disprove this thing, rejecting editorial suggestions because to accept such suggestions gives greater weight to the idea he is a hack.
posted by angrycat at 8:09 AM on November 1, 2013


Kubrick's a genius and King's a hack, is there anything more to be said?

Well, quite a lot, and thanks for the opening. In fact, your sentence not only sums up but pretty much encompasses the argument for the movie trumping the book; it's not just the difference between the two men's reputations, but that that should somehow preclude any discussion of the relative worth of what's actually on the page and screen. That's helped along by King's relative lack of success in his direct involvement with the movie industry; not only in the obvious example of Maximum Overdrive, but in the projects that he's produced and/or written directly for the screen, they're just not that good, either by movie critics' standards or by those of all but his most rabid fans.

But your response overlooks a few things. One, I wouldn't dispute that Kubrick was a genius, but there's absolutely nothing preventing a genius in any field from doing shit work, and more than a little incentive to do so, both from feeling that they're above criticism and simply not having to try very hard any more. Kubrick's Shining isn't shit work, but it's not without its deficits, not least of which is the hollowness at the film's center. That hollowness is masked in part by Nicholson's frenetic mugging--although I think that his scenery-chewing ultimately highlights the coldness of the rest of the film--and it's what allows kooks to intuit deep meaning into a film which not only doesn't really have much but seems to be a testament to Kubrick not really caring about that. It is scary, in parts, but that's just Kubrick hitting a button; both A Clockwork Orange and 2001 are scarier films, in their own ways. King is completely justified in resenting Kubrick taking a deeply interior book (it's all about Jack and Danny Torrance's inner lives) and making it ultimately into just another haunted house/ax-murderer chase. King may not be very good himself in Hollywood, but there are a number of movies by other celebrated directors that are better than Kubrick's Shining: DePalma's Carrie, Cronenberg's Dead Zone, John Carpenter's Christine (much better than the book, IMO), Frank Darabont's Shawshank Redemption, even Rob Reiner's Stand By Me and Misery and Bryan Singer's Apt Pupil. All of them have more respect for the story at the heart of the source material than Kubrick did.

And, second, let's let go of calling King a hack because you don't think he's very good. His work has been very uneven at times, but a hack, by definition, is someone with a degree of professionalism but no personal involvement in their work. Most of the bestseller writers in King's league (in terms of both success and longevity of career) are in fact hacks, but almost every thing that King has ever written bears the stamp of someone who cares quite a lot about his stories, even if some of them desperately needed a good and merciless editor and others probably should have stayed in The Trunk (and, as someone who has read almost every single thing that he's published, I don't think that I need to tell you how much it pains me to write that). That love of writing and caring about his work is why he won't just STFU already about this, despite lots of people wishing that he would.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:07 AM on November 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jack Nicholson . . was all wrong for the part. His last big role had been in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest . . . the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. If the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.
Hmm, but in Cuckoo's Nest, McMurphy is sane and pretending to be a loony. If Torrance is a loony from the start, he's a loony desperately pretending to be sane.

Both voluntarily commit themselves to being trapped and isolated in a public building / institution for their own purposes; McMurphy to avoid work, Torrance to get to work. Both mistakenly believe they can 'handle' the situation. Both are destroyed by it.

I respectfully submit that that casting of Nicholson just a few years after Cuckoo's Nest was in fact fortuitous -- if not absolutely pitch perfect.

RE: Room 237, I enjoyed this quote from the NYT arcticle:
“This isn’t ‘Trekkies’ . . . We don’t have guys having ‘Shining’ weddings, or driving around in yellow VWs with ‘ROOM 237’ license plates. There were no conventions to go to.”
 
posted by Herodios at 9:13 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would totally go to a Shining convention. Could we have it at the Ahwahnee?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:17 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Room 237 documentary is great fun, and worth it for the dissection of the perfect scene where Danny is playing on the carpet.
posted by planetesimal at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could we have it at the Ahwahnee?

....The Timberline in Oregon would be the optimum choice -

"This isn’t ‘Trekkies’ . . . We don’t have guys having ‘Shining’ weddings, or driving around in yellow VWs with ‘ROOM 237’ license plates."

They do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Worse yet, in the book Torrence is an alcoholic who has alreayd indulged in domestic abuse.

He was in the movie, too. I mean, that doesn't really detract from your point, but the way you wrote that made it seem you were saying he wasn't in the movie.

But your response overlooks a few things.

heh.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2013


Eh, I feel like the point isn't that the hotel drives him nuts, it's that he's ALLREADY an abusive alcoholic who just needs a little push.

also, aren't we supposed to hate Wendy? We're supposed to hate her for all the reasons Jack hates her, she so weak willed and accommodating and enabling, he wants to kill her cause she never stands up for herself, because she puts up with him. It's a total nightmare of an abusive relationship.

I totally buy all the native American theories, BTW, it's too deliberate in a movie about a rampaging white man in the frontier. The NASA stuff is jut weird tho.
posted by The Whelk at 2:21 PM on November 1, 2013


....The Timberline in Oregon would be the optimum choice -

From the outside, yes. But on the inside....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:33 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totally buy all the native American theories, BTW, it's too deliberate in a movie about a rampaging white man in the frontier.

The Calumet baking powder / "broken peace pipe" feels like a stretch... the Indian Burial Ground seems like a lampshade on something, though. Or perhaps it's just a joke, like the room full of skeletons: another "this is how we do horror movies, right?" moment.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:09 PM on November 1, 2013


There's also the repeated native American motifs in the decor and Wendy's hippie Neo Native American aesthetics and being framed by paintings of horses, like it's there I think, otherwise why have the Indian burial line, but not for anything more than Then Past Cannot Stay Buried, thing.
posted by The Whelk at 3:15 PM on November 1, 2013


I think the general idea that he used the Native American holocaust as a particular tragedy to support the overarching theme of leaving our past behind by facing it is a pretty solid interpretation, and it all clicks in pretty nicely without much gynmastics.
posted by planetesimal at 4:22 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a thematic motif, not a secret hidden key.
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So first time I ever saw the Shining was out in a very secluded beach house in terrible weather. To relax after the movie, we popped in Twister. Which..... showed..... The Shining..... Short lived terror, but still one of the top 5 worst times in my life.
posted by Jacen at 5:40 PM on November 1, 2013


When you read The Shining it's a horror story about alcoholism; when you watch it it's not.

I agree. The movie version of Torrence is an alcoholic, sure, but his alcoholism isn't really as central to the heart of the terror. I love both the book and the movie, but they are different, and they get under my skin in different ways.

Also I do nail art? And I did these The Shining-themed nails a few weeks ago and I'm really proud of them.
posted by bookish at 7:22 PM on November 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


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