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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Shining (1997)

Those of you who read this blog on a semi-regular basis, may be thinking that I've made a mistake in this review's title- especially since I've already done reviews of Stephen King's Novel "The Shining", and the 1980 Stanley Kubrick version.

Well, I'm not wrong, since 1997 saw a TV mini-series based on the novel.  The teleplay was written by Stephen King himself.

After alcoholism leads to the loss of his job, Jack Torrance accepts a job as winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel.  Filled with hope for a fresh start, Jack and his family move into the hotel, and begin the process of healing old wounds.

Soon, however, the snow starts to fly, and the hotel begins to stalk its occupants in the hopes of making their stay permanent...

After watching Kubrick's version years ago, I'd always felt that "The Shining" would've been better told as a mini-series, since it could incorporate more the themes and scary events from the novel.  When I heard that Stephen King had written the teleplay for such a mini-series, I was instantly intrigued, and began hunting for it.

And I found it.

I won't go into great detail about the story- except to say that this version of the novel follows the plots, themes of alcoholism, and the alienation of loved ones as closely as anything.  The story was told in a fairly even and flowing pace as well.  I also loved that he incorporated one of my favorite scenes from the book: the hedge animals stalking Jack and the others.

The acting was good- certainly far better than you'd expect from most TV movies/mini-series.  Each performer brought their characters to life, and was believable in those roles.  Steven Weber was able to be a likable guy- making those moments when his temper gets the better of him all the more impactful.  Rebecca De Mornay as Jack's wife, Wendy was not only gorgeous, but brought strength to the character that was lacking in Shelley Duvall's portrayal.  Courtland Mead was great as the son, Danny.  He was likable, and brought a nice mix of power and vulnerability to the role.  Dick Hallorann was played by Melvin Van Peebles- who made the character more than just a plot device.  You come to care about ALL the characters, which helped draw you into the story deeper and deeper.

There's a nice blend of creepy eeriness and normalcy weaved throughout the story.  This is helped by some excellent camera work and effects.  There isn't any super complicated or flashy, but the simplicity helped to make the building darkness all the more effective.  My only complaint would have to be the final part of the sequences with the hedge animals.  Throughout the movie, it's quick camera editing between shots that gives the impression of the hedge animals creeping up on their prey.  I loved that.  There was one shot with a possible animatronic hedge head moving.  I liked that too.  The part where it was as satisfying was when they show a full hedge animal moving.  You could tell that it was a CGI hedge animal.  It was obvious enough that it bumped me out of the moment.

In the final analysis, I would have to say that the 1997 "The Shining" mini-series was a better adaptation of the novel than Stanley Kubricks.  I'm putting it in 'The Good".

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