Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Shining

So, it's 2 minutes to midnight on Saturday night... If I start writing now it still counts as on time, right? :)

This week I didn't watch any movies that I was desperate to relive. Instead, because my film class is focussed on Horror movies this week, I watched The Shining. In fact, I watched it twice. The first time was supposed to be in class, but I skipped class that day, and watched it alone, at night instead.

Crap, that was a bad idea. Didn't sleep well at all - had visions all night of creepy twins, and a river of blood... I have to say that this is one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had watching a movie, while at the same time it is such an admirably well-made film. The absolute highlight for me was that cascade of blood; possibly the most arresting image I've ever seen on the screen. I had seen it before, on youtube, but in the context of the film it's used to great effect, and it never seems to get old, or less disturbing, no matter how many times it's shown.

In fact, I thought I'd show it to my girlfriend - she loves horror movies - to see if she thought it was as incredible as I did. The moment she saw it she said "We're watching this. Now." So, I sat through this disturbing flick a second time in the same week. It's amazing that even when you know what's coming, the movie is powerful enough to keep you as unsettled as the first watch. Redrum is now our catchphrase.


Taking a cue from the Slashfilmcast (probably my favourite movie podcast), I just threw that tag up there to let you know: I'm going to talk about the ending, and other plot details of the film, so if you haven't seen it, read no further. Mind you, I read the plot summary of The Shining on wikipedia years ago; It's not the twists of plot that gets to you, it's the heavy, heavy atmosphere.

One other moment that sticks out for me is when Jack starts screaming in his sleep, and awakes frantic. He looks genuinely frightened as he describes the horrible things he did in his nightmare to his wife. I'm not a father, but having a baby sister, and being a committed boyfriend, I can empathise with the kind of terror that would strike a father at the thought of losing his mind and striking out against the people that depend on you to protect them. I see this scene as a rare moment of sanity for Jack, on his slippery slope into madness, when he suddenly realises that the visions he's seeing are horrible, and desperately seeks a reprieve in his ever-commited wife.

Now, the movie does imply (very definitely in the extended version) that Jack is not a great father; an alcoholic and abusive man, who doesn't care for his family, despite Wendy's incessant loyalty. It's this checkered past in their relationship that makes her turn on him in his time of need, accusing him, quite reasonably, of injuring Danny. Although it is a sad moment of misunderstanding, and perhaps Jack wouldn't have gone quite so mad if she'd stuck with him in that moment (he then proceeds, frustrated, to get an invisible drink from the imaginary bartender; his first vision that ultimately leads to his rampage), in a way it is his own fault, for the way he's treated them in the past.

If you're like me, and wondering what the hell was up with all that craziness at the end (like the visions that Wendy sees, and the motivation behind the ghosts), the book is much less ambiguous, and from what I gathered from Wikipedia, it goes thus:

The Overlook hotel is in fact a psychic entity itself. When Danny arrives, it seeks to obtain his psychic power by killing him. It sends him visions, trying to break him, but he defends himself through his split personality - Tony is like the psychic aspect of himself. Failing that, the hotel attacks Jack, playing off his flaws, to drive him to do it's bidding, i.e., go mad and kill his family (namely Danny). When Halloran is murdered, the hotel absorbs his psychic power, which allows Wendy to see the 'ghosts'.

In sum, the film is a masterpiece, with some harrowing and unsettling imagery and music (Oh the music!), wrapped up in a plot that's both simple and subtly ambiguous. It could be read any number of ways, and the themes in it are powerful, and worth dwelling upon. I've only really offered a taste of the potential for reading this movie, but I guess that's the point of only writing snippets.
800 words. Too many. I'm off to bed.