The summer of 97 my brother and I became obsessed with the AFI Top 100 list this led to a full on obsession with Jack Nicholson, and my because my mother totally forgot everything that happened in The Shining, she saw no problem with a thirteen year old me and my eleven year old brother watching. Halfway through, she sighed, “Oh, this was a bad idea”. This happened a lot during that summer. My mom apparently blacked out a lot of the disturbing shit 70s cinema had to offer. She let us watch Taxi Driver because she forgot it was so violent and sexual. What was my mom doing during the 70s?
Eager to break a spell of writer’s block, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) agrees to be the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. He is told that there was once a murder-suicide at the hotel, when a former caretaker snapped one winter but he is undeterred. However, Jack’s son Danny has a special power and has had a disturbing premonition about the hotel. He is a strange boy who occasionally speaks through his imaginary friend Tony. His wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is cautiously optimistic about this next step in their lives, as Jack recently quit drinking after hurting Danny in a drunken rage.
When the family arrives at the hotel they are given a tour by the chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who discovers that Danny shares with him a special power he calls “the shinning”. The family settles in and a heavy snow leaves them cut off from the outside world. Danny begins to have horrifying visions and Jack begins to change.
King and Kubrick had very different interpretations of the core of the story. King disapproved of Kubrick casting Jack Nicholson as Jack , due to Nicholson being known for playing disturbed individuals, most notably his Academy Award winning performance as a mental patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He would have preferred a more everyman choice like Jon Voight to show the power the hotel had over its inhabitants’. Many of Kubrick’s changes make Jack’s transformation more about Jack’s own demons and less about the hotel’s supernatural energy. This includes Kubrick removing from the climax, Jack having a moment of sanity, allowing Danny to escape before succumbing to evil again, making it clear the hotel was using Jack as an instrument of destruction.
Filming was grueling due to Kubrick’s insistence on doing dozens of takes of every shot and frequent script changes. Nicholson refused to read the script until minutes before they were ready to shoot, claiming they would be changed by the time he memorized them anyway and Kubrick’s methods stressed Duvall out so much she started losing hair.
When released the film was not initially a hit, but eventually earned a profit during its theatrical release. While it received mixed reviews at first and was even nominated for a couple of Razzie awards (Kubrick for worst director and Duvall for worst actress), it has since been deemed a classic. If you haven’t seen it, check it out this Halloween, but make sure to make a movie watching buddy, as this one could be pretty creepy to watch alone.