I recently re-watched both film versions of Stephen King's The Shining, so in honor of Halloween, here's two reviews, comparing strengths and weaknesses.
Shining, The (C, 1980) Frustrating masterpiece didn't please Stephen King and it's easy to see why; Kubrick's own vision edged out King's and Kubrick doesn't seem to understand the book. But Kubrick's vision is still fascinating and results in some of the scariest scenes ever filmed. It's relentless and the atmosphere is tense and oppressive throughout. But there are some definite flaws, and the biggest is also the film's greatest strength: Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is sinister and terrifying in general (in fact, that's his entire range, even in straight roles) so when he gets to cut loose as a maniac, atomic magic happens. But in this adaptation he's hostile and crazy right from the start, so there's nowhere for him to go with it, and the idea of the hotel as a corrupting influence is negated. He seems itching to chop up his wife and kid during the drive up (notice how annoyed he seems when they even talk to him). This does make for some tension (the scene where he "reassures" his son that he'd never hurt him just oozes menace) but it guts the whole point of the story, since the hotel's no longer a major change-agent. Shelly Duval's acting is just awful whenever she's not terrified. She sounds like she's reading lines off a card and her character is such a dumb, awkward clod that it seems unavoidable that'd she'd become the target of domestic violence when paired with a guy like Nicholson; it's bunny and wolf. Kubrick seems to want to make her the target for the audience's animosity as well, dressing her like a Raggedy Ann doll and having her seem in a constant state of flinch. Kubrick may be intentionally inviting the audience to sympathize with Nicholson's predatory nature as a way of disturbing you at finding that in yourself. With her Margaret Keene-painting eyes and wide mouth she does do an incredible job of conveying sheer bovine terror, though, and so she's brilliant in those scenes. Iconic, even, since the second-most-familiar still from the film (after Jack's face grinning through a splintered door) is Shelly screaming as an axe crashes through the wall. Kubrick is probably most at fault for her weakness in the "normal" scenes; he reportedly treated her so badly on the set that he probably sucked all the confidence out of her, and there's no excuse for a director so notorious for multiple-takes letting those clumsy scenes go through. Scatman Crothers -- a guy I'm always happy to see -- is great as Dick Halloran, but the importance of his character is all but negated here; he's basically just a Snowcat delivery system. In fact, the whole importance of the "shining" power is no longer a real factor in Kubrick's story, just an excuse for extra spook-show scenes rather than a driving force behind the violence -- that doesn't seem to come from the hotel, but is something Nicholson brought with him. The creepy scenes are some of the most powerful ever filmed, though (the bathtub woman is almost unbearably nightmarish, the little ghost girls, the weirdness of the bear costume scene, Nicholson's catatonic states -- his face is genetically engineered for evil and he has a hard time doing anything else) and there are other bits of brilliant filmmaking (especially the tracking shots of Danny riding the Big Wheel down the hallways, making a symphony of carpet and hardwood). Even though it's not a faithful adaptation and kind of ruins some of King's points, it's good that Kubrick went off the reservation, because even though this is flawed it's a major classic nonetheless, and gets better with multiple viewings.
The very-severe original trailer (some of the creepiest music ever) :
This blowjob-bear scene seems to really freak people out for some reason:
Shining, The (C, 1977) Three-night miniseries version of Stephen King's horror classic. King was never happy with Kubrick's version so when the TV miniseries of The Stand got a good response, King got director Mick Garris to do this one. King scripted so it's much more faithful to the book, which is good in a way because it's a great book, but also has drawbacks, such as King's sweetness and corniness creeping in and weakening the horror, and a more conventional approach robs some power from the scares. Kubrick's version is easily the superior film (Garris is a good workman director but is no visionary), but this a truer adaptation. The cast is good; Steven Weber from the sitcom Wings is Jack, Rebecca DeMornay is Wendy, Courtland Mead is Danny, and the great Melvin VanPeebles is Dick Halloran. Weber is not quite as scary because he's not nearly as sinister as Jack Nicholson (but it's pretty unfair to expect any other human to be as sinister as Nicholson, since "sinister" is really all Nicholson can do), but at least he does transform from a good guy into an evil one, and the contrast packs in some power. Weber does a great job handling the changeover, from believably-lovable to believably-homicidal. The kid here is a better actor than Kubrick's, and has more to do, but they gave him a bowl haircut that makes him look too goofy. And DeMornay is nowhere near as annoying as Duval, but never seems as scared or threatened, either; she looks like she could go toe-to-toe with Weber and do him some damage, while Duval didn't even know how to hold a baseball bat. There's not nearly as much atmosphere, and the Overlook never really seems as isolated, and some of the scary bits are pretty lame. The topiary animals (which I thought sucked in the book as well) don't work, and too many ghosts disappear in puffs of smokiness, and the heavily-made-up party guests just look ... heavily made up. The bathtub woman isn't bad, though, and is one of the scarier done-for-TV makeup jobs I've seen. Stephen King's cameo (as leader of the Gage Creed orchestra - a Pet Sematary in-joke) is pretty Rocky Horror looking. Overall, though, this version does work and it's well-worth seeing, especially if you're a fan of the book (and if you're not, that probably just means you haven't read it).
Whole thing starts here:
Hilarious Conan interview with the kid, who seems to be on crank:
This was pretty damn funny... :)
Redone with Legos: