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Posts tagged “The Shining

The Shining Part Two : Doctor Sleep

I think that Doctor Sleep had been out well over two months before I actually got a copy of it. Still, it didn’t take long for me to bang through this book. The better part of the week perhaps? In the years since, I’ve read it probably more times than I’ve actually read The Shining. It’s one Kings best works in a decade at least. Something about it compels me, and it’s not just the connection to The Shining, in a lot of ways, I’m far more fascinated by the AA components of the book. There is a marvelous story here, built on the smoldering ruins of a world King created, ready to accept a new chapter. That’s one of the interesting things to note about the film in the book versions of the shining. The film attempts to build atmosphere. But the book really is creating an entire world around the hotel, it’s history, and the Torrance family. It’s just great in-depth stuff. And absolutely the sort of fertile house soil that will grow some thing when you very least suspect it.

Stephen King’s never been happy with the Kubrick Shining. This is no secret. Indeed, he went as far as to authorize the TV miniseries back in the 90s… And what disaster that was. Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay do a good enough job, although the Monet films land. But the miscasting of young Danny is an absolute crime. It’s not just The total lack of charisma, but even the look is just wrong. The perpetual upturn lip, exposing buck teeth that would embarrass a beaver. The toneless whine of this child’s voice, it just ruins the film for me every single time. But then again, we also have the terrible make up on the ghosts and the genuinely small, cramped feeling of what should be an expensive grand hotel. It just doesn’t work.

In a real way, King’s best chance at rewriting, and reinventing the shining to put emphasis back on the book, was to do a sequel. Dan grown-up, and what really is the aftermath of the horrors he experienced in the overlook hotel. Maybe I’m just talking for myself. But that’s exactly how it felt for me. Like legitimize in the book as the “real“ version.

It’s hard to describe my trepidation when I heard they were adapting it for the screen (and that may have something to do with why it’s taken a few years for me to actually watch the film!).

Look, this is a task I absolutely do not envy director Mike Flanagan. Because he’s faced with a unique problem. How to adapt a book that is a sequel to another book that was made into one of the most beloved horror movies of all time… but done so in a way that it still adapts the normal book that’s a sequel to the different book that you’re adapting into a film… Oh, my head hurts.

I never felt like I needed elements of The Shining in Doctor Sleep while I was reading the book. But it’s a fair argument that more people have seen the film than have read the book… It might be a more even split among baby boomers and Gen Xers of a certain age who saw the book sitting on their parents shelves, but overall the Kubrick film is far more visually iconic.

Flanagan himself wasn’t new to King’s work. He’s a lifelong fan, but more importantly he had some credibility to his name. This is the person who did the adoption of Geralds Game, a book that was largely considered unfilmable. He found the right balance, what things to alter to be able to make the movie without compromising The story or key elements. He kept true to the core story and knew where the cosmetics mattered and where they didn’t. It was this sort of credential that was enough to get him in front of King to ask about adapting Doctor Sleep for film. It’s a tricky proposition. King’s attitude towards the Kubrick film had not softened at all over the years, but it’s an unparalleled understanding of the core story and all of the material that allowed Flanagan the inside to present his idea. A scene at the bar, something that would truly examine, explore and progress the Torrance family story arc… something that King felt never happened before… And an intriguing enough idea that it moved King from a firm quote “No.“, To “Keep talking, I’m listening.“

Doctor Sleep is the story of Daniel Torrance (played perfectly by Ewan McGregor – seriously, his performance can not be underplayed here), in the years after his experiences at the Overlook hotel. We find him, a washed up alcoholic pretty well hitting rock-bottom. On the other side is Abra, a teenage girl who is coming into her full power in The Shining. And in the darkness, The True Knot. A group of psychic vampires led by Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson – who manages to feel immediately familiar – even though I’ve never seen her before in ANYTHING. Hmmmm. Perhaps she really IS a vampire!), all intent on drinking Abra‘s Shining right out of her, and purifying it through pain.

The film follows the book fairly closely for the first two acts actually, although it does nod its head towards the film here and there. A flash once in a while, rare and scattered. We discover early on that Dick Halloran is in fact dead in the story. That immediately signals to this being more of a sequel to the film than the book, though you could probably wrap your head around a rationalization if you need it to. The actor is a brilliant re-creation of Scatman Crothers though. It’s an almost dead on impersonation and really well realized. Carl Lumbly has been made up to be the spitting image and a perfect Dick. They re-create Danny as a young child as well, but it’s again, used sparingly so the fact that he looks just attach off in the face… You’re not given enough time to really think about it. Shelley Duvall‘s doppelgänger Alex Essoe fares a little worse. Duvall is a much more recognizable actress, but one might argue that the events of the shining changed her… Aged her. Jack Torrance however, is shocking when we see him. He’s perhaps the epitomie of watching Flanagan is done with this movie. That face is not Jack Nicholson‘s, but everything about him is Jack Torrance. The hair and the mannerisms, the color and the movement. Henry Thomas (yes, THAT Henry Thomas) absolutely nails it and I buy it immediately, never questioning the entire time he’s on screen… And he’s on screen for a while.

Why? Because it’s that third act where things really start to diverge from the book. In the book, the final showdown between Danny, Abra, and rose the hat… It takes place at the site of the overlook… But of course in the book, the Overlook was reduced to a burning, smoldering rubble when the furnace exploded. Today it’s just an overlook point, a scant campsite with a few picnic benches and a plaque that might mention the grand old hotel. Rose meets her end in those outbuildings.

The problem is, for this film to really appeal broadly, we need more than that. We need the hotel itself, we need… The Overlook.

We’re never given a proper explanation as to how the building is still standing, why the electric still works or why it’s so pristine inside. Who knows, perhaps it doesn’t even exist anymore… But it’s held together by the sheer force of will stemming from Dan’s imagination? Or perhaps it’s just a cursed old haunted house, the sort of place that can’t ever really die. Whatever it is, 30 years later, it looks exactly the same… And I mean exactly the same. Kubrick’s estate handed over photos and documents, even the original plans for the Overlook so it could be built and replicated down to the last detail. And when I say the last detail, I mean last detail. Photos, props, even sheets of paper with the inscription “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.“ typed immaculately dozens of times across the crisp white sheets. The directors sets his third act there, with Rose the Hat meeting much the same end and she does in the book, perhaps in a more visual way, perhaps more ghosts eating at her life force than what the book might describe (along with some that a visually more recognizable), but the essence is still there. However, Flanagan then pushes the climax even further enveloping us in the terror that is a return to the Overlook. It’s ending is ultimately a satisfying climax, especially in this format… where you’re limited by the 2 1/2 hours to tell a story and tie the strings together. In a lot of ways he’s done the impossible. He’s merged the book and the film together, and created something that reconciles both. Just as importantly, he’s created a film adaptation that I once again enjoy just as much as the book.

Well, almost.

Doctor Sleep is derivative. It is an adaption. It is a piece of art with a foot in both the literary and cinematic world. But it’s not The Shining. It’s not necessarily it’s own entity the way that the book and film versions of The Shining are. here. No, this is definitely the Earth 2 version of the book, and as such will never be quite as satisfying. But as far as party tricks go, pulling this off is a pretty spectacular one. It’s available on streaming now, it’s on DVD now, go find it.

 

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The Shining : Part One

Yeah, I know. You’re thinking “He’s doing a review on The Shining???“ I mean, is that really necessary? No. But this isn’t really going to be a proper review anyhow. It’s more of an examination… a set up.

It was a couple of years ago at Cinema Wasteland when the thought really occurred to me. I was in the bar, sitting at a table with a group of friends. I’ve been discussing my difficulties with the Dark Tower… I really only enjoy the middle couple of books, which then get interrupted by a flashback which I’m not into at all… It’s a mess for me. Nevertheless, because in a lot of ways, it’s the binding material that connects the Stephen King universe, I felt like I had to get through it. This led to a brief discussion on the movie, and my friend Shrew, a massive King fan, was adamant that the books are always better than the films. We went through and talked about favorite books, and then favorite movies. Then I pose the question; which do you like better? The film or the book of The Shining? That stopped him dead in his tracks. You could see the cogs turning in his brain as a smile started to curl at the corner of his mouth. It’s an unfair question I realized, because unlike any of kings other work, The Shining is a unique example of filmmaking That transcends but doesn’t eclipse its source material. Indeed, I think you could regard each has their own separate entity. Not merely a multi-verse divergence or a medium translation, but fully formed individual entities, separate from each other yet bearing the same name.

To be fair, they share a lot of the same names. Jack Torrance. Danny. Wendy Torrance. But are they the same characters?

Maddie and I are still talking about Spider-Man No Way Home. She is in an MCU phase right now, and before going to see the most recent Spider-Man movie, we went back and we watched homecoming and far from home as well. These new MCU films have a lot of characters with the same names as characters in the Spider-Man comics. But Zendaya is Michelle is not Mary Jane Watson. The producers them selves even made this clear. While we’re calling her MJ, this is not the same character. Nor is Peter‘s friend Ned, or his nemesis flash. Indeed, it’s my one big beef with the Tom Holland Spider-Man films. I wish they had just given all of these characters original names… Because they’re original characters. Seriously, I still bristle every time Peter calls Michelle “M.J.“.  Ned’s derivative, but the cast itself is pretty interesting, and have they been given original names, you might see them eventually translate into the comics. That’s never going to happen now.

But just like these characters in Spider-Man share the names with those in the comics, but not their faces of the personality… The same is true in The Shining. Stephen King described Jack Torrance as a pretty normal guy, going through a bad time he goes crazy. He’s description of Jack Nicholson‘s Torrance though, he’s a guy who’s already unbalanced and a little crazy who goes completely around the Bend. Likewise, Wendy Torrance in Kings mind was a sort of athletic cheerleader type. Pretty and outgoing, but sheltered. Naïve. The kind of woman who has never really had to face any kind of adversity. While I didn’t necessarily read that same sort of trophy wife status in the book, Wendy did strike me as strong and intellectual. Likely someone with higher education, someone who is not easily spooked, but rather a very rational kind of girl. Either way whichever us you listen to you’ll find it a stark contrast to the neurotic, chain-smoking twig we see in the film. Shelley Duvall is a mess already, and there’s no bravery in her. She is a flighty Hufflepuff, not a Gryffindor. Even the hotel itself is different. While the Overlook is absolutely a grand old hotel in both incarnations, the Overlook in the book is darker. The pipes rattle, and that boiler is ready to blow at any time, just waiting to give us a traditional Stephen King ending where he writes himself into a corner and then just blows everything up.
The outside is different as well. That iconic hedge maze that everybody knows from the movie, isn’t present in the book. Instead, it’s replaced by a roque Court, something like an oversize croquet game. Indeed, it’s a roque mallet that Jack carries through the house, ready to bludgeon Wendy, but not so much to chop her up as in the movie. It again underscores the fact that the book house itself may well be more dangerous than Jack. There are also hedge animals. Amazing topiaries, littering the front yard. And these are sinister things, moving only were not observed, like the weeping angels from Doctor Who.

So when I look at these foundational underpinnings being so different between the book and the film it’s only natural that it’ll progress in a different way. There are different hauntings, different survivors and different threats. For instance, while the lady in the bath is pretty shocking, even after grabbing Danny a bit, I’m never entirely convinced that the ghosts in the hotel can really hurt you. That’s why they need Jack, stocking the halls with an axe. In the book however, I am absolutely convinced that these things will kill you dead. I am convinced that Jack will be torn apart by the topiaries in the yard if he doesn’t escape. I am positive that while it’s a double entendre, the dog man threatening Danny, will indeed eat him up as a bloody snack if Danny dares to trespass down the wrong hall. The snake that the fire hose turns into… It’s full of venom and those teeth are needle sharp. There’s more monsters in the hotel in the book, whereas the film leans far more heavily on specters. And why not? Film is a visual medium, whereas pros is the theater of the mind.

At the end of the day, the end result is two entities so distinct that their night and day. And in a fascinating turn of events, the film is not better than the book. But the book is also not better than the film. They are each their own distinct pleasures, holding within them their own unique delights in tears. I can read the book or watch the movie and still come always satisfied but in different ways. Which one I reach for on any given day depends greatly on exactly what sort of itch I’m attempting to scratch.

That’s a fascinating thing to me about The Shining. I can think of no other film that is so divergent from its source material while being absolutely as valid and effective. But it then poses its own unique dilemma when it comes time for the next movie. What do you make the sequel to? The book? Or the film?

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

 


Daniel Lloyd

That’s right, the little boy from the Shining starts off a poster for me!


The shining 1997

remakesThe_Shining_(miniseries)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 indexneed 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 MV5BMTg5MjQyNDgxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE1MDc2MQ@@._V1_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 thatcourtlandmead 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 shining-1997-miniseries-jack-torrance-hedge-animals-topiary-steven-webberon 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?