Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creepy Viewing for a Cold Winter's Night

Well, we had a winter storm warning today but nothing happened till around 9am...so therefore we went to school on time this morning.  However, we were sent home early after it got bad out.  Then it started getting better.  Its still supposed to snow and be icky tonight, but its yet to be seen if its going to be bad enough to cancel school tomorrow.  Part of me hopes not, and another part of me hopes it does.  I suppose it would be better for all of us if we had school tomorrow just so we can have our dress rehearsal for the show.  I'm pretty sure we'll have school...but you just never know with this crazy Ohio weather.  Anyway, since it was chilly and wintry I decided to pop in something all about winter isolation and going mad.  Cheery thought no?  It is a film based on a Stephen King novel and one that had been adapted once before, and not to the writer's satisfaction.  So King and some television producers got together to make a new version of his chilling tale so that they could stick closer to the book's material.  Now let's settle in and experience the mini-series version of The Shining.

Jack Torrence is an out of work ex-teacher and alcoholic who is seeking a second chance both with his career and with his family.  His past rounds with the bottle have left his wife mistrustful of him, his son afraid of his temper, and him unemployable as a teacher.  So now, in a last effort to get some work, he goes after the job of winter caretaker at the famed Overlook Hotel.  The job is pretty sweet.  He gets to live in a posh hotel for several months and enjoy plenty of time to himself to write a play.  There are drawbacks however. It is isolated and, being in Colorado, it is certain to be cut off from the nearby town due to bad weather for several weeks...even months.  Also, his son Danny is prone to dizzy spells and fits, which makes Wendy, his wife, nervous.  And that's not all.  It seems that Danny has a psychic gift, that the hotel's cook calls 'shining', and he can see the future as well as psychic echos from the past...and the Overlook wants Danny's gift so it can make its ghosts from the past become reality.  The hotel plans to use every trick it can muster to get the boy including a suicide victim's ghost, a ferocious topiary garden, and even Jack himself.

The Shining is a really great ghost story that strikes a very keen balance between supernatural horror and mental horror.  It is fairly obvious in the book and in this version of the film that there are ghosts after our family of protagonists, but it also doesn't spell absolutely everything out for us either and it questions what is real and what is imagined by its characters.  The effects are good for a TV movie, the quick cut montage with the topiary at the midpoint of episode two is one of the standouts, and the performances by most of the cast are effective too.  Steven Weber manages to make Jack Torrence sympathetic as he descends into madness and also keeps the character from going too crazy too fast (unlike Jack Nicholson from the original, who many have criticized that he turned crazy much too soon).  Is this version better than the original Kubrick version?  That's really a matter of preference.  As much as I hate how Kubrick's version changes King's story willy nilly, I still think its the better film...but this one is nice for those who always wanted to see a film version that stuck closer to what King originally imagined.  See both if you can handle the suspense, and make your own choice.

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