The Shining (1980): Kubrick’s Masterpiece About a Haunting and Escape From Abuse

The Shining

   Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors so seeing “The Shining” again was well worth it and I was reminded once more of all the reasons why he is a favorite director. I haven’t read the book that the film is based on but Stephen King hated this version of the film even though it is so far the best adaptation of his work…most of the other adaptations of his books are simply terrible. But who knows, Kubrick was never a likable guy so maybe that’s part of it. This is a film that captures so many elements of horror and makes me really want to read the book. I’ll go into the aspects of terror it captures later on in the review.

    The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick who also produced the film and wrote the screenplay with Diane Johnson. It is of course based on the book of the same name by Stephen King.

      The story is about a struggling writer named Jack (Jack Nicholson) who takes his family up to the Overlook Hotel so that he can be caretaker of it. He soon learns about the haunting history behind and as things begin to unravel it is up to his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to cope with the consequences of Jack and the Hotel.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack is wonderfully tense and keeps you on your feet the entire it. It turns mundane things into things that are off, whether it is writing a story or entering a maze. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind did a fantastic job.

The Cinematography – Kubrick knows how to shoot a scene and the use of the hotel’s size is used to create feelings of isolation. Kubrick also uses shadows and light in the maze for that same bit of terror and using stark contrasts throughout the film to accent loss of control or entering moments of the supernatural.

Film Structure – The structure of the film is great as we are shown Jack’s descent into madness as winter comes on the Overlook Hotel with the time period or time passed flashed after character moments.

The Writing – The writing is mostly show and not tell and that lends it power. We also see character moments revealed in this way too, Jack’s making excuses about hurting Danny only being one time reveal that no doubt had happened more…and the silence of characters reveal intent and action. Kubrick’s script is phenomenal.

The Characters – The main characters are all compelling in different ways and their relationships inform one another as many of them change over the course of the film.

Dick – Dick is the cook and also can communicate and sense things like Danny. He is Danny’s mentor and Danny reaches out for help. He is killed by Jack in the end but is able to deliver Danny and Wendy an escape vehicle to get away.

Danny – Danny is a kid who has a spirit named Tony inside who takes control sometimes and is the one who goes from a passive figure to one fighting for survival as he tricks his father in the maze and reaches out to Dick to save himself and his mom.

Wendy – Wendy’s arc is standing up to her abusive husband and escaping the relationship. In this we see that even though she seems passive that she will fight back and does so when she knocks Jack out and locks him up and later we see her stand up against the spirits even though she’s terrified as she makes the escape with her son. She’s an awesome character.

Jack – Jack is abusive and we soon realize how abusive as the story progresses. He is an antagonist who is complex in that he obviously is not a fully terrible human being, but at the end of the day he is the monster who lets his ego and selfishness control him and whatever ways he was horrible before become compounded as he becomes a force that the ghosts use to kill his family.

Escape From Abuse – Wendy and Danny are in an abusive relationship with Jack. It’s never stated outright but the moment of anger at Danny was shown to be a pattern based off his behavior in the hotel…as well as Wendy’s making excuses for him…it takes seeing Danny hurt again for her to finally stand up and after that she fights. She is no longer a victim but over the course of the film becomes a survivor of Jack’s abuse. She survived while the other family was not able to escape their abusive spouse/father.

The Mystery – The mystery is wonderful as we are left wondering if Jack crossed back in time when he was interacting with the ghosts and if he’d been at Overlook before that day. The nature of the Hotel and Jack are left open which gives power to future hauntings of the place.

What Makes a Good Ghost Story – Part of what makes a good ghost story is how it puts those living on edge and connects them to their mortality (Wendy and Danny’s escape) or their ego and selfishness (Jack). It is less about the ghosts in the end and more about what they make people do. This is a prime example of this as the point of evil spirits in horror stories is to reveal the darker side of the living.

   This is a film that has very little wrong with it. My only issue I could see with it is sometimes it lags, though I valued that time because it helped build suspense, but I’m also aware that not everyone is into the slow build. Besides that, this is one of Kubrick’s masterpieces for a reason and is well worth viewing for anyone who loves suspense, horror and cinema.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012): Enjoyable Crazy

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       This movie wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t really call it good. It was enjoyable though and there quite a few things I liked about it. For one Nicolas Cage does crazy really well and seeing him emote was a treat as he was acting like he had a dark spirit inside of him, which was his job. Most of my issues with this were that the villain and supporting cast, minus Idris Elba were pretty weak and I had no reason to care about them….which I blame partially on the acting and partially on the writing. But I’ll get more in that later on.

    “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, written by Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer, who also wrote the story. The film was produced by Steven Paul, Ashok Amritraj, Michael De Luca and Avi Arad.

      The story begins with The Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) recounting his story about the deal he made 8 years ago with the Devil Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) in order to save his Father which lead to him being inhabited by the Ghost Rider which feeds on the evil of others’ souls. Prior to this we see Moreau (Idris Elba) going to a Monestary that soon comes under attack as Roarke’s forces try to get Nadya (Violante Placido) and her son Danny (Fergus Riordan) who is connected to Roarke. When Moreau offers to help free Johnny Blaze from the Ghost Rider he fights to protect Nadya and Danny from Roarke and his forces as the endgame approaches.

The Pros: Nicolas Cage – I’m not going to say Johnny Blaze or Ghost Rider because I don’t know the characters well enough, but Cage is fantastic! He manages to be both crazy, strange and even empathetic at times. This is hard to pull off given how he’s written or just how Cage acts in general in his films but I really appreciated his performance here. I wish he’d honestly been given more to do besides be insane or sad, those were the only two emotions his character was allowed to feel, which got borrowing after a while, so point goes to Cage. We see his kindness when the Spirit of Vengeance is found at the end to heal Danny after Danny turns him back into the Rider after the Order had made him human again. So some decent acting range there, revenge to joy.

Nadya – Her character wasn’t bad and was enjoyable at times. She’d run with a bad crowd and made a deal with the Devil for her life, the price had been pregnancy and her child who she came to love, even knowing where he came from. Her character is really strong and we see her fight, even when outnumbered. Placido does a good job too.

Moreau – It’s Idris Elba, you can’t go wrong there. He does an amazing job as the drunk priest who lives life laughing. He’s great to see and when he realizes he’s betrayed he stands with Blaze against the order. His character is eventually killed by Roarke’s current Emissary Blackout, but not before Moreau headbutts him. Bad ass until the end. Elba elevates any role and this role could have been a waste if not for Elba.

Okay/Pro: The Cinematography – At times the cinematography was choppy but I really liked how the color scheme was like a comic book, including how they did Blackout’s Kill and some of the fight sequences. They were filmed like a comic book and it actually added something more to the film.

Okay: Blackout – The guy is just a creep, but when he becomes Blackout he has a cool kill affect at least. It is only him and the person he is decaying behind black, it really captures the nature of his power. Also to his credit he does defeat Moreau and put up a good fight against the Ghost Rider, which is more than can be said for Roarke.

The Cons: The Religious Orders – So many orders wasted, there is the one the beginning which gets killed by Blackout and we don’t even get to know them or their relationship to Nadya and Danny…there are the creepy ones with writing on their faces who want to kill Danny it turns out and we get none of their motivations, they are just creepy for the sake of creepy…also the Devil’s cultists who are mindless drones. All these orders are wasted and receive no development.

Danny – Danny likes Blaze because he isn’t as bad as the people his mom usually dates, that’s all we get for his relationship to Blaze besides them riding Blaze’s motorcycle. Wasn’t impressed with his development to Roarke his father or to Blaze…only relationship that felt real was the one with his mother and I don’t know if that’s the fault of the actor or the writing.

Roarke – Mephisto, the Devil, etc…what a wasted villain. The guy was never scary or threatening and for the deal maker he really made crappy deals. The Ghost Rider was so much more powerful than him he spelled his own doom in making that deal. Is the Devil really that stupid? Really wasn’t impressed, one of the worst villains in a Marvel film, and I’m including “Spider-man 3” and “Daredevil.”

    This movie was fun. I don’t think it’s as terrible as some people on Rotten Tomatoes make it out to be or as good as IGN thinks it is. For me it was enjoyable fun and a film I probably wouldn’t watch again unless it was with friends. I do hope we see the “Ghost Rider” come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe though, there is so much story potential that it would be a shame if he never arrives or is used again on screen. A spirit inhabiting a person that has it’s own agenda is a pretty cool idea, as is the Ghost Rider’s ability to turn any vehicle into a weapon of revenge.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10.