Our Daily Trailer: THE SHINING

Stephen King's best novel makes for Stephen King's best movie.

The theme for Our Daily Trailer this week is Stephen King films, which you guys can imagine is pretty much just the best news for me. This was a tough decision and part of me might still regret not talking about the wackiness of Sleepwalkers and how that film delighted me during a very confusing time in my sexual development.

But The Shining still stands out as both my favorite King novel and film, even though King himself wasn't happy with the adaptation. Kubrick's version is indeed quite different from King's vision - it drops so much of the character development in favor of crafting this very specific atmosphere of lunacy and dread. And this film is designed to the fucking hilt, from the now-iconic carpeting to Jack Torrance's desk with his typewriter and ashtray arranged just so, to the deserted hotel bar and the eerie hedge maze (replacing the topiary animals of the book).

And Jack Nicholson's facial expressions as Jack Torrance are A+, capturing all the despair and menace and agony -  it's a veritable facial rainbow of terror. I particularly enjoy the faces he makes in the cruel sarcasm and "totally baffled by this bullshit" range.

While it's natural to want to compare the book and the film, it's sort of unfair - and that's something I addressed previously in my discussion of the novel, which I still think is King's most perfect work to date.

The film version of The Shining is - on the surface - Kubrick giving us his version of a ghost story: the literal ghosts of the Overlook Hotel hound a man who is haunted by demons of his own (alcoholism, a violent predisposition), enabling his descent into madness. Kubrick's film suggests the traditional concept of masculinity; the man who avoids and stuffs his feelings down rather than address them and cope. On the surface he is smiling and agreeable and just trying to build the ideal life for his ideal little family, but Jack Torrance is not okay. He is a man afflicted by his own masculinity, a man who dresses his wounds but never addresses the underlying cause. Those cracks in your mask are showing, Jack.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is what Jack's wife Wendy finds in his typewriter, repeated ad nauseam instead of the novel he was supposedly working on - a testament to the patriarchal commitment to tirelessly providing for a family he's convinced has become ungrateful; a family of leeches that the ghosts of the hotel have convinced him are standing in his way. If only he didn't have a wife and a son to care for, he could be the true caretaker he was destined to be, and the one he always has been in the dark heart of the hotel. This sinister ideology would have Jack believe that he is meant for greatness, if only that damn woman and that pesky child hadn't ruined his fucking life. Take another drink, Jack. You've always been here - whether here is the Overlook or the bottom of this glass.

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