Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stephen King (novel) Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson (screenplay)
This movie really features the best of both worlds. It’s a movie directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time based on a book written by one of the most popular horror writers of all time. This turned out to not be such a perfect marriage between Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King but it’s still hard to argue with the final product.
This movie was made by a true master of his trade and you can see that from the very onset of the film. The panning shot of the horizon as the car drives toward the hotel is both breathtaking and eerie with the musical overtone. This is largely hailed as one of the greatest horror films ever made and I think this intro sets the tone for a scary film. The stillness of the camera as it rolls over the scenery is particularly impressive. The perfection of Stanley Kubrick really shines through this movie from beginning to end. It’s an aesthetically pleasing movie with it’s incredible set designs and contrasting colors. Nearly every shot of this movie is filled with color almost like it was painted for the screen. Kubrick was an artist and you can see that in all his films; a truly one of a kind filmmaker.
While this movie is considered one of the best horror films ever made there is one strong opinion to the contrary. The author of the book, Stephen King, absolutely hated the movie and spent years bashing it before he was contractually silenced in order to make his own version. He has a lot of problems with the movie and is on record saying he has no idea what people find scary about it. The truth is that it was his baby and a new step daddy raised it into something different than King had in mind. He did not like the casting of either Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall. He specifically hated Duvall as she was the exact opposite of the character he wrote and he felt like Nicholson’s Jack was crazy from the get go rather than having a slow descent into madness as in the book. As far as King is concerned it’s far scarier for a Jack who is actually a loving and caring father to go crazy rather than a Jack who seems sort of already crazy when the movie starts. The hotel itself is the real villain, and Nicholson’s performance makes Jack the primary villain as opposed to merely a weapon of the evil hotel.
Jack Nicholson is truly magnificent in this movie, the true face of a madman. It’s easy to see why King hated the part because in the Jack is obviously a little crazy from the beginning. It seems a bit obvious in the scene on the ride to the hotel with his family. Nicholson really comes off as if he is suppressing rage throughout the whole scene. It may not have been how King envisioned the part for the adaptation but it is hard to argue with Nicholson’s performance. He does appear a bit crazy from the get go but when he starts delving farther into madness he is truly terrifying.
On the other hand I don’t understand why they ever cast Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. Not only did she not even come close to resembling the original character but she is simply awful. Her acting simply isn’t on par with the others in this movie and she is legitimately annoying throughout the entire film. Kubrick wanted her for the part because he wanted a weak and vulnerable Wendy, and to ensure he got one he bullied her relentlessly during filming. She appears so on edge throughout the film because she actually was on edge in real life working under Kubrick. I find her to be too weak and vulnerable though. It’s off putting, she is the weak link in this otherwise fantastic movie.
This was practically the only thing that Danny Lloyd ever did as an actor. He made one appearance in a TV film before retiring as an actor at the age of 9. It is unfortunate because he did such a compelling job in this movie that it would have been interesting to see what else he was capable of. He came up with the finger thing for Tony on his own and I think it was a really effective tool to have stumbled across. I have always thought that this little kid talking to his finger in that creepy voice was part of what made the film so scary. Due to his young age Danny wasn’t actually privy to what the movie he was making was about and Kubrick managed to get him through the film without him ever realizing that he was making a horror film. He remained under the impression throughout filming that he was filming a drama about a family that lived in a hotel.
One of my favorite performances in the movie is that of Scatman Crothers, who just embodied everything I had imagined for the character when I read the book. This was a hard movie on him at age 70 and his friend Jack Nicholson actually had to smooth things over with him multiple times. Kubrick is notorious for taking several takes of everything and he at one point nearly brought Crothers to tears after an unreasonable amount of takes in which Crothers seemingly could not please the director. If I’m not mistaken it was the airplane scene in which he simply asks the stewardess when they will be arriving. After an insane amount of takes Crothers looked at Kubrick and asked him what he wanted, to which Kubrick replied “I want you to do it right.”
Of all the movies we have reviewed this October this is the only one so far that fits with the season. The other horror movies have all been disappointing or flawed in some aspect but this one is legit. Whether King liked it or not it’s still a great movie that offers plenty of entertainment. He might have not found it scary but there are plenty of people who disagree with him. Personally I don’t find it too scary but entertaining none the less and it has the feel of a horror film. Horror films simply aren’t made with this quality of filmmaker and cast. It’s what makes this movie exceptional. King’s version of the film has it’s merits but it will never stand up against what Stanley Kubrick was able to do. I would easily recommend this movie to watch during Halloween season, it’s worth your time.
As a side note there is an interesting conspiracy theory attached to this film that is enough to make you question things. Check it out below and leave a comment with your thoughts if you feel so inclined.
Did Stanley Kubrick film the moon landing? I don’t know but while the whole the conspiracy theory surrounding this movie has been debunked I still find it to be quite interesting. I do not know if the moon landing was real or not and truthfully I have never cared. I’m not big on conspiracy theories because they simply encourage the foolish, and things are never quite so theatrical in real life. Yet there are certain differences in this movie from the book that have always befuddled me. Specifically the 237 room number makes me wonder. The number 217 was used in the book and it is specifically a Stephen King thing to use numbers that add up to 19. It’s change in the movie was apparently a request by the hotel so people didn’t get spooked by a real room within the hotel but if it actually correlates with the distance to the moon then it is a fascinating coincidence. While I have no interest in the conspiracy theory I do think if a director was hired to do it Stanley Kubrick would have been the one chosen. Kubrick was arguably the greatest filmmaker of all time and he was so intelligent that the theory makes me wonder. Is it a coincidence or was Kubrick actually trying to tell us something? I’ll let you decide, check out the video below and take a trip down the rabbit hole.