The shining 1997
The biggest problem with the shining is that there are two distinct entities. The film and the book, and they are connected only by the same title the same setting and a few character names. That’s really where the similarity ends. If I were Stephen King I could see how I could be upset about Kubrick’s handling of the film as well. The Shining film never intended to be the book, and in many ways it lacks the depth and character of the book while being a brilliant film standing on its own. What was Kings solution? It was a six hour miniseries. The television Shining was inevitably going to be compared to the Kubrick Shining, indeed the Kubrick film has reached just as many people if not more than the original novel did. So the TV Shining need to really… shine… to overcome this. The casting of Steve Webber may be a misstep, his face was just too recognizable from Wings. He acquitted himself well however and managed to really showcase that gradual transition between a person who is normal at the begining of the story, into someone completely crazy.
In the TV miniseries we are really treated full on to the villain of the piece. That is to say Horace Durwent. And the problem here is we are really just trading one ghost for another. The absence of Lloyd and Grady(not a complete absence but a reduction in the roles that is) is very keenly felt. Such ghosts were very eerily realized in the film version. Durwent on the other hand is poorly realized. When he looks normal he’s fine but the story calls for him to become more ghost-like as the series goes on and while it’s an effect of make up rather than CG, it’s poorly made. This should not be in full light and I’m never convinced that he is a ghost but rather he always feels like a guy in a rubber mask which completely undermines his menace. Lighting in general is a problem. This is definitely a studio job, without enough time to really light this set correctly so we miss a lot of the gloom, a lot of the atmosphere that the Overlook really needs to be a frightening place to exist.
By far however the greatest detriment to this film is Courtland Mead, who plays Danny Torrance. This bland derelicts runt cannot deliver a convincing line read to save his life and this is a big problem because the film revolves around him. He is the single greatest drag on this film and I don’t have any idea how this kid get cast.
The other real drag on this is the use of pre-matrix CGI. There are references in the book to the topiaries that come to life and sneak up on you. The concept is terrifying in the book but they act similarly to the weeping angels, in that they only move when you do not see them. You can hear them but as long as you watdch them you’re okay. In the TV series we see them, and it’s awful. Seriously, this could’ve been far more easily done by creating some hollow topiaries and moving them between camera shots, or if you are in that insisted on using CGI, use still shots overlayed on the frame. No movement – ever. Just sound, it would have been ten times more terrifying.
That goes for the scene with the firehoses well. I realize the fire hose turning into a snake is one of the images that originally prompted King to write the story but the CGI just looks so poor and ages so badly that it’s laughable. A practical face on the hose on invisible thread filmed in reverse probably would’ve looked equally bad but it would have aged better and would be better accepted today.
Ultimately the problem with Kings shining is one of scope; trying to do too much too fast with two little. If you go back and revisit this reboot it if you still stretch this prehaps even as much as 10 hours but I’d prefer to see one hour per episode instead of two and take more time during production for proper setups and proper lighting and perhaps even better Danny Torrance. It might not bring it up to the same standard as the Kubrick film but it would at least make it worth defending and isn’t that the entire point of these reboots?