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Volume 3, Number 43

This Week's Reviews:  Don't Say a Word, The Fearless Vampire Killers.

This Week's Omissions:  Bones, Bread and Tulips, My First Mister, On the Line, Our Lady of the Assassins, 13 Ghosts.

This Week's Reviews:  Halloween, Jaws, Rosemary's Baby, The Shining.



Don't Say a Word

(Dir: Gary Fleder, Starring Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, Jennifer Esposito, Oliver Platt, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Guy Torry, Shawn Doyle, Victor Argo, Isabella Fink, Conrad Goode, Paul J.Q. Lee, and Paul Schulze)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

A psychiatrist rushes madly through Manhattan to save his child -- the only person that can save her life is a young girl in his mental institution. Meanwhile, his wife, sitting in her bed with a broken leg, is under the constant watch of these kidnapping thugs. Things are not looking too good for the Conrad family this Thanksgiving.

The father is Nathan Conrad (Douglas), a highly revered psychiatrist in the upper crust Manhattan medical community. His latest patient is Elisabeth Burrows (Murphy), a classified catatonic (Nathan disproves this immediately, of course), because his friend Dr. Louis Sachs (Platt) asks for some help with a case he cannot crack into.

As fate would have it, Elizabeth's rabbit hole is far deeper than one would expect -- she, among other things, saw her criminal father beaten by thugs and thrown in front of an on-coming subway train -- and she'll bring more trouble to Conrad than he'd ever seen in his job. Her father had cut some spoils from arch-criminal Patrick Koster (Bean), who has spent the last 10 years in prison waiting to regain that lost loot. The only person who now knows the place to get the jewels from is Elizabeth and he cannot get to her when she's stuck in an institution. That's where he sees he can use the Conrad's.

Patrick breaks into Nathan's apartment, sets up a system of cameras to watch the place and leaves with daughter Jessie (Bartusiak). When he gets the attention of a frantic father, Patrick begins a set of rules and time limits that will lead to getting the secret number from Elizabeth or the death of Jessie. Defiant but afraid, Nathan attempts to meet Patrick's requests. Of course, this is not an easy bit of information to get out of Elizabeth -- she's held it for 10 years and considers it to be part of the feeble connection she still has to her father, not to mention the fact that she is crazy.

Don't Say a Word runs at a brisk pace for the most part and does not feel the strains of its genre. Yet the pieces fall apart as the story gets further into the flashbacks. Director Gary Felder is not an amateur, his style works to keep some of the adrenaline pumping. Yet the screenplay by Anthony Peckham and Patrick Smith Kelly never really loses the tension that Felder is working hard at keeping. By the time the film comes to an end, the audience has been on a roller coaster of interest and disinterest.

Michael Douglas had been on a strong string of hits until 2001. Earlier this year, One Night at McCool's possessed a nice supporting part in a lackluster film, but this Don't Say a Word truly breaks the series successes since he is playing the lead. Though his performance is good, it cannot compare to his Nicholas Van Orton in The Game, Graddy Tripp in Wonder Boys, or Robert Wakefield in Traffic. Though the early scenes are similar to his Steven Taylor in A Perfect Murder, it lacks the slimy lure that made that performance (not to mention that film) so great.

Most of the supporting players do their best and should get some attention for it. Brittany Murphy does better than normal, though her actions are often on the edge of annoyance. Famke Janssen plays her role about as by-the-book as it comes, though that is pretty good for the normally horrid actress. Sean Bean returning to playing villains is fun and the normally terrific young actor does a fine job creating the tension between himself and Douglas' character. And Oliver Platt gets to give the film some nice moments, though his character is thrown to the side way too early in the game.

But nice actors and fine direction cannot save a weak film. Don't Say a Word stands as a mediocre genre piece with little to go on outside of some pleasurable sidesteps. The screenwriters might have been able to produce something incredible had they taken the time for a few more rewrites to get out the kinks. As it is now, the only big budget thriller that's worth seeing is Joy Ride, but no one's taking the time to see it.


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The Fearless Vampire Killers

(Dir: Roman Polanski, Starring Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Ferdy Mayne, Alfie Bass, Jessie Robins, Iain Downes, Fiona Lewis, and Ronald Lacey)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Roman Polanski was young, a Turk of the French New Wave with little interest in Nouvelle Vague filmmaking, in 1967 when he made The Fearless Vampire Killers. He was just beginning his career as an English-language director and his first film, Repulsion, had been well received (today, in my opinion, the film stands as one of the finest horror films ever made) and his second Anglo film, Cul-de-Sac, had done moderately good business. The former was a horror film, the latter was a comedy -- for his third trick, Polanski wanted to mix the two genres.

In The Fearless Vampire Killers, he took the styles found in Hammer horror films and the kooky comedy of Dr. Strangelove (the film, like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb, picked up a subtitle in America, gracing screens as The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth are in My Neck) and made his own amalgam. The end product is a movie that is both frightening and funny. Some might say its degree in both terms is less than needed, but I counter that the fact the film works on both levels proves its accomplishment.

The film opens as two inept vampire hunters come to a small Eastern European town looking for their next capture. The problem is that their abilities are admittedly muted and their prey is all too willing to prey on them. Professor Abronsius (MacGowran, best known for playing the ill-fated Burke Dennings in The Exorcist) is old and withering and barely able to survive the cold drive through the wintry forests. His assistant Alfred (Polanski) is bumbling and quite introverted. He develops a fondness for Sarah Shagal (Tate), the daughter of the local tavern keeper and almost seems to get the affection returned.

But all this comes to a halt when the town's vampire (because, you know, all 19th century Eastern European towns have one) Count Von Krolock (Mayne) takes Sarah away from the tavern as his new acquisition in hopes to change her into a vampire. Now, Alfred is pushed to stop Von Krolock, not only because of his occupational duty but also out of love for a possible victim.

There are many great set pieces found in The Fearless Vampire Killers, including a gay vampire and a Jewish vampire (his reaction to a crucifix has to be the funniest line in the movie). The climactic ballroom dance of a few dozen vampires and the human protagonists (which gave the film its British title: Dance of the Vampires) serves as a great chance for visual and audio humor with the addition of some nice scares.

Roman Polanski does a fine job directing the film, giving it a quirky appeal much like Strangelove, though not near as good. His style serves the film differently than in any of his other films. The slow moodiness of Rosemary's Baby, the contemplative drama of Chinatown, and the bolting creepiness of Repulsion are not found in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Instead Polanski suits the film with tailor-made style becoming of a Hammer meets Charles K. Feldman fusion.

That same year, Charles K. Feldman had his own little spoof with the much-maligned Casino Royale. That muddled masterpiece has only remained in the mind of people today because it has the connection to the James Bond series, but The Fearless Vampire Killers has become a forgotten gem. People only remember it when they revisit the early films of Roman Polanski, not because it is a famous or infamous piece of past motion picture stylings. For that they have What's New Pussycat? and Dr. Strangelove. And all along, The Fearless Vampire Killers' best jokes fall to deaf ears.


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Repertory Reviews: Over the course of a year I write occasional repertory reviews to have just in case a weekend bears few films to review.  Thankfully I have not needed to take from these queued reviews since From Here to Eternity was added to the weekend with Pearl Harbor.  Since I have quite a large amount of these reviews awaiting release, I thought it would only be prudent to release a few whenever possible so that they would have some use.  With Halloween coming tomorrow, it dawned on me that the four horror films in the queue could easily be used in a nice special review column for the week.  You may notice that all of these films garner high praise, and that is as it should be.  I will rarely take the time for repertory reviews of films that I don't consider worthy of remembering.   These four films are definitely worth revisiting.


 


Halloween

(Dir: John Carpenter, Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Tony Moran, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, John Michael Graham, Nancy Stephens, Arthur Malet, Mickey Yablans, Brent Le Page, and Adam Hollander)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

A man sits outside a bright house in a nice suburban setting. A young teenager comes in and out of the place making a conjugal visit to his girlfriend. Then, when it looks like the coast is clear, the stalker goes into the house and stabs the nude woman to death as she pleads "Michael, no!" En route out of the place, Michael is stopped by the parents of this woman who take a Halloween mask off of their son Michael Myers to reveal that he is nothing more than a small child.

That is the way John Carpenter opens his horror classic Halloween -- with an entire stalking and murder done through the eyes of the killer up to the revelation of his true identity. Halloween has become a monument of horror/suspense in the slasher age since its 1978 release. Today, the grisliest of slasher horror films live under the guise of Halloween spawn -- that's always saddening, Halloween is far more than these collective films. Where John Carpenter created his murders around the suspense more than the actual killing, these successors seem to believe that a huge kill count with a high gore factor is the only way to make a good horror film.

There seems to be two fathers of modern slasher films: Halloween and Psycho. It should be no surprise that Carpenter has often commented that a great deal of his style in Halloween is supposed to come from Alfred Hitchcock's work on Psycho. These two films opened the doors for movies that show people killed by crazies. The big difference, of course, is that Psycho and Halloween live in the belief that the suspense is the main character in these films and that the plot has to be as realistic as possible. I know that many people love them, but the non-human killers in the Nightmare on Elm Streets (Freddy Kreuger), the Child's Plays (Chuckie the Doll), and Friday the 13ths (Jason Voorhees) fail to become near as scary as either 'Mother' Bates or Michael Myers in the fact that they are so unrealistic. With Bates and Myers, the fear is truer because the characters are created as real people -- just people with problems, that is.

The star of Halloween, despite the normal obsession with the killer(s) that occurs in the post-Halloween horror films, is Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. She is just another typical schoolgirl in little Haddonfield, Illinois. Curtis plays the role perfectly, never becoming a sassy hero like the genre often calls for. Instead she plays the situation like most people would -- when Michael Myers starts to follow her to the door, she runs and screams. There's no cheesy "No, Mickey, I don't like it" dialogue to create a few guffaws at bad jokes; Laurie is played so normal that the abnormal situation she gets in seems even more horrific.

Early in the film, the audience learns that Michael Myers was sent to a mental institution after killing his sister. All this is told by Sam Loomis (Pleasance; the same name was used for Marion Crane's boyfriend in Psycho) as he takes a nurse to the institution. Upon arrival, they see that the place has gone crazy with inmates roaming the driveway of the building with no guardians. Michael Myers has gotten out and is set to return to his hometown of Haddonfield. Loomis hopes to get there and stop him before he can do any damage, but it is highly doubtful that he can find Michael in time.

Halloween is built around the idea that anytime, anywhere, a person can be there to kill you for no reason and without any indication that your life is in danger. There are four main female characters in the film, and none of the ones that are killed or survive to the end titles are any different from most high school students. The promiscuity, the failure to follow rules, the scorning towards authority -- everything they do is archetypical for the age.

John Carpenter handcrafted the film on $300,000, directing, co-writing, and scoring the film. It is also the only film in the director's oeuvre that seems incredibly personal -- in the director's twenty features, Halloween is the only one that has left me with the impression that it is the creation of no one else but John Carpenter. Most of his other films feel manufactured in a way -- not that it is a great debit to his films, I happen to like a few of his later ones -- but Halloween feels intimate with the director. To me, Halloween is to John Carpenter as Dreams is to Akira Kurosawa.

And even more so, the horror films today seem dependent on Halloween. In the past twenty-three years, horror films have had two faces: the slasher films and the self-referential teen slasher films. Halloween lead directly to first face, then indirectly to the second. The next eighteen years had films attempting to recreate the terror of Halloween and failing almost every time. They never understood the importance of realism in those films -- they instead hoped that murders that are both higher in number and grislier in gore would mean something. While these films often made money, they never made an artistic contribution like Carpenter's film. And then the last five years have been in reference to all these 'old' horror films. In these new films, the characters have seen the horror films and are trying to deal with their situations by what they have learned. And it's quite fitting that the first of these self-referential films, Scream, made certain to hold regard for one particular predecessor: Halloween.


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Jaws

(Dir: Steven Spielberg, Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey C. Kramer, Susan Blacklinie, Jonathan Filley, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Lee Fierro, Jeffrey Voorhees, and Craig Kingsbury)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

"Under water, no one can hear you scream."

Ok, so that was not the actual tagline behind Jaws when it came out in 1975, but that is definitely how it would go now. Jaws was an anomaly -- not only was it a disaster film of the least epic proportions, but it was also a summer movie before it was acceptable for studios to release an important film during that vacation-riddled season. Today, summer is when the studios release almost all of their big budget films -- the reason for this is Jaws. The film opened large enough to take people away from their vacations and became the highest grossing film up to that time (two years later, Jaws would lose the title to Star Wars). Now, if a studio has an important project, it is released between May and August.

And what a grand way to begin the summer blockbuster seasons! Jaws is the absolute in "When Animals Attack" specials. It has likable characters, believable scenerios, and a threatening enigma. Jaws still has the punch that it had in 1975 -- every attack sequence is still thrilling almost to cause the audience to sweat. Steven Spielberg created one of the great modern monster films -- but with the most realistic of monsters.

The title Jaws is a reference to a shark that is attacking the beach goers at Amity Beach, a New England island town that relies completely on its summer tourism. At the beginning of the film, a teenage girl leaves her beachfront party and goes for a nude swim. Within moments she is being pulled to-and-fro and finally under, leaving the water peaceful again. The next morning, her body parts begin to come ashore and her missing person report means that the police begin to piece together (no pun intended) what had happened. It looks to the coroner that it is probably a shark attack but that is not something that the mayor (Hamilton), fearing the loss of tourists, will allow. The final coroner report: the young girl accidentally swam into a boat motor.

Mediating this fight and rummaging for 'Beach Closed' signs is Police Chief Martin Brody (Scheider). Brody has recently moved to the area from New York with his two sons and wife Ellen (Gary). He is not really aware of how important this season is for the area and cannot understand why the mayor would allow the tourists to go into the water not knowing the threat of an attack. Next thing Brody knows, there's been another victim in the ocean outside of Amity.

Since this death was in the view of many tourists, it is decided to make the apprehension of this shark a major affair -- getting the waters clear of any danger. Drunken Amity residents begin to crowd boats to catch the shark, becoming a modern day lynch mob (plus, when they do catch one shark, the hanging of the shark looks quite a great deal like a lynched criminal). But Brody has his own group: he hires an ichthyologist (shark expert) from the Oceanographic Institute named Matt Hooper (Dreyfus) and local fisherman/bounty hunter Quint (Shaw) to stop this menace. In Quint's rickety old boat, the three head out to capture and kill the Great White.

Jaws is filled with moments that will forever be etched in the memory of viewers. Amongst scenes like the opening and the closing shots, I have a personal favorite with the way Spielberg handles the first shot of the shark. Before that moment, about 90 minutes into the film, the only shots dealing with the shark had dealt more with the ravaging that it caused than the actual ravager. At this moment, we get to share the surprise with Brody as he too gets his first glimpse of the fish that has caused so much trouble for him. The main reason that his next line is so famous is because that's exactly what the audience is thinking too: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

This was actually only Spielberg second theatrical feature (his first actual time directing was on one of the three stories in Night Gallery). For such a young director, Spielberg was already looking set to become another novice great like Martin Scorsese (who, in 1975 was preparing his best film, Taxi Driver) and Francis Ford Coppola. The first decade of Spielberg looks so different from the fantasy master that he would become in the 1980's. Duel, The Sugarland Express, Jaws, and then into Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. -- today he's still in the drama mode of his career that began with The Color Purple (with a few returns to the old days like Hook and Jurassic Park).

Jaws could very well be his best pre-Schindler film. It features some great dialogue, great characters, and a few great scares. Spielberg has always spoken of great adoration for two filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. Spielberg would not really touch on the Kubrickian side until Close Encounters in 1977, but Jaws would be his Hitchcockian high point. Every facet of the film goes with the ideals behind Hitchcock when it came to thrills. The film not only has a great McGuffin, it also has a directorial touch reminiscent of Hitchcock (who at that time had just come back to the fore with his thriller Frenzy in 1972). There is one moment that I have always marveled at in Jaws as Hitchcockian -- the scene in which Brody watches the beach in anticipation. The camera seems far away from him at first, but every time a person walks by in between Brody and the camera, the edit puts us a little closer. Each time he get a bit deeper into what is going through the mind of Martin Brody.

Hitchcock once said that having an unknown bomb under a table explode was a surprise, but that suspense was when the audience knows there's a bomb and must wait to see what happens. For Spielberg, the table is the water and the bomb is his shark -- and we, the audience, still get to sit in suspense.


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Rosemary's Baby

(Dir: Roman Polanski, Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Angela Dorian, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook, Jr., Emmaline Henry, Charles Grodin, Hanna Landy, Philip Leeds, and D'Urville Martin)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Whenever people ask me to name my choice for best horror films, it's always a nice varied bunch that I then get to relate. I've got the five easy ones: The Haunting (Robert Wise's 1963 original, not the 1999 remake), Psycho, The Shining, Halloween, and The Exorcist, but then, just when I've got them thinking I have pretty mainstream taste, I throw out the wild cards, the two films from 1960's Roman Polanski: Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. Sure, some people have caught Rosemary's Baby, but those that have always give me the weirdest reactions, usually more or less telling me that Rosemary's Baby is simply not scary.

But that's where I think they are wrong; Rosemary's Baby is scary in the most visceral way. Only at the end is there anything near a moment meant for sudden terror and fright, but the psychological fear and dread that fills the first two hours of the film is what brings the film to greatness. Polanski was the best at psychological horror -- look at Repulsion, where nearly nothing truly terrible happens throughout but remains consistently terrifying.

The begins with a gentle yet somewhat spooky lullaby sung by star Mia Farrow and accompanied by Christopher Komeda as Polanski's camera looks over the Manhattan skyline and following a couple into the apartment that will serve as the primary settings throughout the film. This moment shows how minuscule their story will be -- it has even more meaning when the film comes to an end.

The couple are newlyweds Guy (Cassevetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Farrow), shopping for their first apartment together. This apartment that they now look at are nice Central Park West home of a recently deceased old lady with a price tag far above what Guy's acting pay can afford. But Rosemary wants it dearly and they rent it. Within days Rosemary meets their neighbors, Roman (Blackmer) and Minnie Castavets (Gordon), who are kindly old people that have recently taken in a dope-addict as their child named Terry (Dorian, which is a pseudonym for actress Victoria Vetri). A little later, Guy and Rosemary see that Terry has committed suicide and soon Rosemary cannot get the Castavets to cease the visits over to the Woodhouse apartment.

As time progresses and Rosemary begins to ask for information from Edward Hutchins (Evans), a long-time friend, Rosemary begins to get the impression that her seemingly kind old neighbors are actually part of a satanic group. Then, when Guy tells Rosemary that he wants them to begin working on having a baby, things get even weirder. One fertile night, Rosemary and Guy accept a dessert from Minnie that has a weird undertaste in Rosemary's helping. She subtly throws some of it out when Guy becomes enraged that she does not want to eat all of it. Soon she is out cold, but wakes up in what seems to be a dream involving sex with first Guy and then some unusual looking creature. Soon later, Rosemary learns that she is pregnant.

Rosemary's Baby is by far one of the few films to successfully pull off terror without a hint of blood. For the duration of the film, the audience is meant to feel like Rosemary in worrying that perhaps there is something wrong with the way that Guy and the Castavets treat her during the pregnancy. One very unusual occurrence is that Guy very suddenly has good luck with a role when the original performer (whose voice on a telephone later in the film is that of Tony Curtis) abruptly goes blind. Also, there is something rotten in the way that Guy seems more interested in remaining true to both their doctor and the Castavets than to Rosemary. Her fears are often scoffed at as simple pre-natal anxieties, but there may in fact be something to them.

Mia Farrow gives the performance of her career in the film. Though the lion's share of attention went to costar Ruth Gordan (who won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award), the real actress of the show is Farrow. The entire film is dependent on whether the audience sympathizes with and even, perhaps, believes in Rosemary. Farrow does this and more with her Rosemary; by the end of the film the audience feels like it has been on a roller coaster with her and is able to appreciate any decision she might make for the future.

With Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski proved that he has a few more tricks up his sleeve after Repulsion. Filled with pity and unease, Rosemary's Baby does more without gore than all the Friday the 13ths, Nightmare on Elm Streets and even Halloweens put together. Polanski crafted the film from his own screenplay and makes something for the ages: a film that not only strikes an interesting threat, but also poses the same question that made Time so controversial in 1967: what if the world is left to eternity without a God? Even more so, who is ready to replace Him if in fact His reign is over?

Rosemary's Baby haunted me when I first saw it at the tender age of 11 and I have held it close since. It was more than another spooky film -- it is filed with ambiguities, questions, and fears. Roman Polanski took the collective mindset and created the most masterful mind game. And, all the while, never pushes the violence envelope for the scares. It reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock quote: "there is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it."


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The Shining

(Dir: Stanley Kubrick, Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Lia Beldam, Billie Gibson, Barry Dennen, Lisa Burns, and Louise Burns)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Anyone that questions the ability of Stanley Kubrick to make something great out of a genre should only look at his The Shining, which takes the tired thriller of a man gone crazy and resorting to violence and creates one of the finest horror films ever made. Kubrick could have made another film that seethed with the same manufactured Hollywood hokum that hurt so many other, similar films. But Kubrick couldn't stand for the film to seem like anything brought to the screen before. As Kubrick would do with nearly all of his films, he took something that looks like every other film in the genre and then proceeds to show the audience things they've never seen before.

The Shining was actually one of Kubrick's more critically reviled films when it came out in 1980. I did not see it then, but I do remember people scorning Kubrick for making something so absurd. As would become the norm for Kubrick's late films, the appreciation for his magic would not occur until long after the film had been out (I like the fact that fans of Eyes Wide Shut have begun to come out of the woodworks two years after that film's release and loud dismissal from many critics and audiences).

The Shining is based on a grossly overrated Stephen King novel of the same name. I read the novel some years ago and was so disappointed with the sanguine way that King dealt with the story -- the ending is especially disarming in how horrid it is -- that I cannot comprehend the idea of reading another one of his novels. King has famously dismissed the film, even remarking that he thinks that Kubrick made the film ultimately to hurt him. But, I disagree, Kubrick adds to the novel and makes a film that can be used as pure and intriguing horror -- King wrote The Shining-lite; the only reason that the novel deserves some notice is that it allowed the film to be created three years after its publishing. Kubrick and co-screenwriter Diane Johnson melt down the scenarios in King's novel and recasts the story into an interesting and completely terrifying film in the end.

The story is about Jack Torrance (Nicholson), a struggling writer and former schoolteacher, who is chosen to be the caretaker of the huge Colorado hotel the Overlook during the six-month off-season. From the 30th of October until the 15th of May, Jack and his family are to take care of the place, checking the boiler, heating parts of the hotel, and repairing small damages. All these physical jobs sound easy -- it's the mental side that makes it such a hard job. For most of the six-month working period, Jack and family will be alone in the place because the blizzard weather knocks out all the roads during most of the period. Jack is game: he thinks the seclusion will help him in writing his book.

Come 30 October, his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny (Lloyd) are then introduced to the place with him by the Overlook's chef Dick Hallorann (Crothers). It is at this time that Danny learns that his visions -- some of which have already shown in the film by this point -- are not merely left to him. The psychic powers called 'the shining' are also shared by Dick Hallorann, who befriends the young boy and tells him to call for him in Florida via his mind in the event that anything goes wrong.

And, of course, something does go wrong. Not only does the seclusion, the cabin fever take its toll on Jack, there is also a little problem with the ghosts at the Overlook who are more than happy to help Jack in taking care of any little problems, including his annoying wife and pesky son. The ringleader seems to be Lloyd (Turkel), a man that appears to Jack as the bartender in the Overlook's supposedly bottle-less bar. In reality -- and Jack acknowledges this from a picture that he has seen -- Lloyd is Charles Grady, the caretaker in 1970 who killed his wife and two daughters before finally shooting himself in the head. Danny, too, has seen part of the Grady family: the two daughters occasionally stop him in his path.

Jack Nicholson plays his role for everything that it is worth. If there is any certain moment that could define Nicholson's long and varied filmography it would be that now inordinately famous "Here's Johnny" moment from The Shining. Though the acting is not near the caliber of his work in Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, his job acting as Jack is by far the most fun you can take from the role. In the Vivian Kubrick documentary The Making of 'The Shining', it is easy to see that Nicholson was having fun on the set and that enjoyment comes to life on the screen.

Now, on the other side of the pleasurable production spectrum was Shelley Duvall who sufficiently pulls off nervy and unnerving at the same time. I have never really cared for the actress in the film too much, but I can commend her for playing scared at just the right pitch. Of course, the reason for this may be in the fact that she was nearly driven crazy by Kubrick, who would, as rumor has it, often take her shots into 200 takes. Kubrick worked the actress for everything that he could get out of her. From her previous dallying with Robert Altman, she must have thought directors were kindly gents, at least until she met Kubrick. Duvall plays scared for her life because, perhaps, she too remained frightened for her own life behind the scenes.

There are so many ways to look at the expertise behind The Shining, that it would take so much more than one long-form review. Chiming in on the great sound design and cinematography and sets would merely mean adding onto the already huge helping of praise that these elements have received. Instead I think I should pinpoint one thing that, to me, shows clearly what it is meant by Kubrickian perfection: the film has damn fine title cards. No, don't think that I have gone off my rocker in aggrandizing Kubrick, he really did throw in the most intriguing and impressive title cards caught inside a film. The early cards refer to mere moments ('The Interview,' 'Closing Day) and then turn into a reference to time ('A Month Later'). Then Kubrick whittles it down to individual days ('Tuesday,' 'Thursday'), which show how repetitious and demanding this life has become to Jack. The audience shares with him the day-by-day repeat sounds of Danny's tricycle on the wood floor, the daily soap opera watching of Wendy, and the typing of Jack -- they have succumbed to a routine that is enough to drive a man mad. By the end, Kubrick no longer takes time so limited as a day, he goes into the minute hours ('8 am,' '4 pm'), the time that people have to live or die, to save the day or slaughter the innocent. These titles become additional characters -- sometimes when they appear, they are just as startling as any person jumping out from behind column with an axe.

In a mammoth, almost epic 142 minute length, Kubrick creates a world all his own. That's definitely one of the many reasons that Kubrick has become such a beloved giant of film, every one of his later films seem unquestionably Kubrickian. With the exquisite look at perfection, the love of certain shots, and the eeriness of some of the most domestic of moments, Kubrick creates a horrifying vision of his own scare-driven Ben-Hur. Though much of the film's story did not fit the director in 1980 (fresh off of the period drama Barry Lyndon), The Shining turns into something that is Kubrick almost to a fault. Perhaps that is the main reason that Stephen King hates this film version so much: by the end of the film you have the definite feel that The Shining is the artistic horror masterpiece of Stanley Kubrick, not of Stephen King.


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Reviews by:
David Perry
2001, Cinema-Scene.com

http://www.cinema-scene.com