Bonus Reviews: "The Shining" 1980 and 1997 Versions Compared
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 195
For this week’s bonus films, we’ve got a pair of Stephen King films split up by not by years, but by format: One was a theatrical film, and the other a three-part TV miniseries. Yes, we're looking at "The Shining" a story about a child, a hotel, and a madman.
Back in 2020, we also reviewed "Doctor Sleep" when it came out, which was the sequel to The Shining. Check out that review here: https://www.horrorguys.com/doctor-sleep-2019-review/
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The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Stars Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Run Time: 2 Hours, 26 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The tension starts low and ratchets steadily higher and higher. There are some plateaus though, and this may be a little too long in the opinion of The Horror Guys. Still, it’s masterfully directed, has an excellent cast, and it's pretty true to the Stephen King novel. It holds up well after 40 years.
A car drives way up into the mountains as credits roll. It drives up to a huge resort hotel up in the mountains. Jack Torrance is there for an interview; he wants to be the caretaker of the place for the winter season; he’s a writer and wants a change. Back at home, his son Danny and wife Wendy talk about going to the mountains for the winter. Danny has a talking finger named Tony that seems to_ know things_.
Mr. Ullman warns that they get twenty feet of snow every winter, so Jack and his family will be completely snowed in and secluded. He warns about how bad the isolation can be, but Jack’s all in for that. Ullman also talks about the tragedy of 1970, where the caretaker went insane and killed his family with an ax. “Cabin Fever,” they called it.
Danny has a vision of blood in the elevator and two strange twin girls. He faints, and Wendy calls a doctor to check him out. She says there’s nothing physically wrong with Danny. Wendy tells the story about how Jack got angry drunk once and dislocated Danny’s arm, but it’s okay because he didn’t mean it.
The family goes up to the Overlook Hotel on closing day. Jack tells Danny about the Donner Party and cannibalism. Ullman gives the family a tour of the huge place, and Danny sees the weird twins again. They go outside and look at the famous hedge maze; the place is built over an Indian burial ground.
Ullman introduces chef Dick Halloran to the Torrences. Halloran takes Wendy and Danny to the kitchen and shows her where all the food and cooking stuff is. Then they leave Danny with him to have ice cream. Halloran explains that he and Danny share a gift; a way of seeing things that other people can’t see. But tries to emphasize that what they see is not real. Halloran calls it a “Shining,” and some people can do it. Danny asks about room 237, and knows that Halloran is afraid of it, although Halloran denies it. He does warn him to stay away from that room though.
A month passes. Jack still doesn’t have any good ideas for his book, which annoys him. Wendy likes the place a lot, and so does Jack. Jack even feels like he’s been there before, even before his interview. Danny and Wendy play in the big maze outside; it’s really dense, and the walls are surprisingly thick. Inside, Jack looks at a scale model of the maze on a table.
A few days later, there are reports of a big snowstorm approaching. Danny notices room 237, and he’s just got to check it out. The door is locked, so not today. Jack gets grouchy when Wendy interrupts his work. The snow hits and goes on for several days, and Wendy notices that the phones are out. The forest rangers on the radio say that this is even worse than usual for the area.
“Come and play with us,” say the twins to Danny. He gets glimpses of them alive and also as mutilated corpses. Jack has a dream about killing Wendy and Danny. Danny comes in with a bruised neck, and Wendy blames Jack for abusing him again.
Jack goes to the hotel bar and looks to scrounge up a drink, but everything’s been removed. Until Lloyd the bartender shows up and pours him a bourbon. Jack drinks to not having a family; he really regrets having Wendy and Danny.
In Miami, Halloran hears about the snowstorm in Colorado. He gets a shining that tells him things are getting bad for the Torrances.
Wendy says that Danny told her that someone in room 237 attacked him. Jack checks out room 237, and finds a naked woman in the bathroom. He likes her, and they kiss. As they pull away from the kiss, she turns into a rotting old zombie-woman. Jack backs out of the room and locks the door behind him. Jack tells Wendy that Danny must have hurt himself. When Wendy wants to leave the hotel, Jack says she’s messed up his life already, he’s not going to let her do it again.
Jack goes downstairs to the ballroom, and there’s quite a party going on. Everyone’s in 1920’s-era clothing. Lloyd pours some more bourbon. Jack meets Delbert Grady, the man who went crazy and killed his own family in 1970. He has a wife and two daughters. Grady tells him, “You are the caretaker; you have always been the caretaker. I should know - I’ve always been here.” He also warns that Danny is trying to get Halloran to become involved in the hotel.
Tony starts yelling “Redum!” through Danny. Halloran calls the forest rangers, who try to call the hotel on the radio. Jack hears them and wrecks the radio. First thing in the morning, Halloran gets on a plane back to the hotel. The roads are really bad, but knows he has to get to the Overlook.
Wendy goes to find Jack, and this time, she’s carrying a bat. She wants to get in the Snowcat and drive down the mountain, but she needs to check and see if Jack is willing to go along before she leaves him. She finds out that all he’s written is “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” over and over, hundreds of pages’ worth. He’s done no real work at all this winter.
Jack catches Wendy looking at his stuff and lectures her about his responsibilities to the hotel. He might be a little unhinged at this point. He keeps pushing, so she whacks him with the bat. She drags him to the food storage room to lock him in. Jack laughs at Wendy’s plan, because he’s wrecked both the radio and the Snowcat. The ghosts let him out.
Danny picks up a machete and continues to repeat “Redrum,” which he writes on the door in lipstick. Wendy sees the word in the mirror and reads it as “Murder!”
Jack arrives outside their room with an ax and starts breaking the door in. Danny escapes through the restroom window, but Wendy is too big.
Halloran picks up a Snowcat and arrives at the hotel finally. Jack hears him coming and kills him with an ax almost immediately. Danny screams and runs for it, with Jack in pursuit.
Wendy sees some ghostly visions in the hotel rooms. Then she runs into Grady and a room full of corpses. Finally, she sees hundreds of gallons of blood come from the elevators and runs outside.
Jack turns on the outside lights and watches Danny run into the hedge maze. He leaves footprints in the snow, so he’s easy for Jack to follow with his ax. Except at one point, Danny backtracks and takes a different turn. Jack gets lost and freezes to death.
Danny finds his way out of the maze, catches up with Wendy, and the two of them drive Halloran’s Snowcat down the mountain to safety.
We cut to the ballroom, where we see many photos of old times gone by. One of them shows a bunch of guests at a party in 1921. Front and center is Jack. He has always been the caretaker…
It’s a long film; it’s more than a half hour until the family is even alone in the hotel. Jack’s pretty much insane within another fifteen minutes. The rest of it is all “amping up” the tension. That’s a lot of tension to amp. In my opinion, it’s still about a half hour too long; to be completely honest, most of the stuff about Danny and Halloran’s “shinings” don’t add much in my opinion, and could have been cut out.
It’s clear from their very first scene together that Jack doesn’t like Danny and barely tolerates Wendy. Isolation just makes those feelings escalate. Even without the supernatural stuff, this winter wouldn’t have gone well. Jack didn’t want a family at all, and he makes that really clear before the end.
The setting, between the hotel itself and the frozen nastiness outside, lends itself perfectly to isolation and terror. Jack Nicholson had been in good movies before this, but this is, in my opinion, his best over-the-top performance. He certainly looks unhinged, no arguing that point.
The Shining (1997)
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Stephen King
Stars Rebecca De Mornay, Steven Weber, Wil Horneff
Run Time: 4 Hours, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was long, with a lot more exposition and detail than the 1980 movie version. It follows the book a bit more closely, and Stephen King was more directly involved in the making. The cast is very good, the special effects are cool, and overall it’s a fun watch.
This was a made-for-TV miniseries in three parts:
Pete Watson explains the boiler system to Jack Torrance; he needs to release the pressure every day, or bad things will happen. Also, there’s a bunch of rats. Watson whines about how cheap Mr. Ullman is. Every hotel has its scandals, he says. He tells a story about a woman in room 217 that committed suicide a year or two back. The last caretaker, Grady, killed himself too with a shotgun. Torrance is going to be the new caretaker. Watson does mention that there aren’t any ghosts here.
Ullman shows off the oversized croquet game out in the yard. He explains how Horace Derwin saved the place a few decades ago; the old hotel nearly went out of business. Ullman knows that Torrance is an alcoholic, and he doesn’t really trust him to watch over the hotel over the winter, but the board overrode the decision. Also, he knows Jack was fired from teaching for assaulting a student. Jack says he’s sober now and his family will help him get through the winter.
Back at home, Danny tells his mother Wendy that Jack got the job. He just knows these things, so she expects that Danny is right. She remembers back when Jack hurt Danny when he was drunk. She threatened to leave the instant it ever happened again. Outside, Danny sees his imaginary friend, Tony, who is creepy. Tony warns Danny to stay away from the hotel in the snow.
On the way up to the hotel, Jack tells Danny about the Donner party and that no one can leave the hotel after the snow flies. Again, Tony warns Danny to stay away, but Danny knows better than to say anything. When they arrive, Danny likes the topiary animals.
They meet Dick Halloran, who makes an impression on Danny. He knows that Danny’s nickname is “Doc” without being told. Halloran says Danny has a thing called a “Shining” where he sees and knows things other people can’t. He’s run into others from time to time. The two of them have a telepathic conversation, and Danny gives the old man a nosebleed when Dick challenges him to give him all he’s got. Danny holds back, and it still gives him a wallop as well as breaking one of his tail lights. Halloran warns Danny about scary things he’s seen inside. He emphasizes that the things Danny might see can’t hurt him - they aren’t real.
Halloran shows them to the Presidential Suite, and Danny sees the murders that have happened in the room. Soon, the old man leaves for Florida, and the three are alone for the winter. We see small signs that things happen on their own in the Overlook– ghosts, perhaps?
Trying to fix a hole in the roof, Jack encounters wasps. He sprays the nest with poison. Danny wants the nest for his room. That night, Danny has a seizure alone in the bathroom, and Jack gets angry and carried away. Jack feels bad and immediately apologizes; he’s a little afraid of “Tony” too.
Midnight strikes on the clock, and the empty hotel comes to life. Danny is attacked by wasps; the nest wasn’t as dead as Jack thought. After much drama, Jack takes the nest outside to freeze.
Wendy takes Danny to the doctor in town to verify that he doesn’t have epilepsy. She talks about Jack and his alcohol problem and how he broke Danny’s arm. Back at the Overlook, Jack digs through old books in the dusty basement. We flashback to 1947 and Horace Derwent’s Ball, but Jack stops when he begins hearing voices. Once he decides that there’s nobody there, he reads on to see that a mob boss was executed in the hotel.
November arrives, and with it, the snow. Danny hears voices that say “Let’s play,” so he follows them. He almost goes into room 217, but Tony warns him not to; it doesn’t matter, because the door is locked anyway. Danny goes down to the office and takes one of the pass keys. When he goes to return the key, Jack catches him. Jack starts out harsh, but gets control of himself and just lectures Danny about the rules.
Dany tells Wendy that Jack isn’t writing his play anymore. He just reads the papers in the basement and thinks about writing a book about the Overlook. Danny sees “Redrum” written on his wall, but he doesn’t know what that means.
December rolls around, and Jack is losing interest in Wendy. He says he isn’t drinking - he couldn’t be in fact because there’s no alcohol there - but he acts an awful lot like he is. Wendy talks about leaving tomorrow when the weather breaks. They fight but soon make up. Jack says he feels like he was meant to be there.
Next day, Jack sees some weirdness outside with the very angry-looking topiary. Not long after, they get a snowstorm. Jack hears his dead father’s voice on the radio. Danny finally goes into room 217, and the voice on the radio tells Jack about it. Jack ends up smashing the radio.
Danny, in room 217, finds a rotting undead woman in the room’s bathtub who does bad things to him. Jack assumes Danny broke the radio, forgetting that he did it himself. When Danny turns up with a choking-bruise around his neck, Wendy blames Jack. Danny screams “It was her!” Danny tells them about “The 217 lady” and “The Shining” and ghosts. He tells them pretty much everything. Jack then goes up to 217 and gets a scare himself. He comes back and says there was nothing up there. Jack and Wendy fight some more about leaving.
The next morning, Jack checks out the snowmobile in the garage and decides that it would be a bad idea to leave. He then shows Wendy that the snowmobile has also been destroyed, just like the radio. Danny plays outside in the snow as the topiary… defrosts as Wendy gets locked in an office. We see the cgi-animated topiary closing in behind Danny…
Jack hears Wendy screaming; Wendy breaks a window in the office to get out. They both rush outside to get Danny as the animals close in on him. The animals don’t seem to have moved, even though we saw them earlier. However, they aren’t covered in snow anymore. That night, they’re all woken up by the sounds of a party. They go to investigate, and there’s more fighting between Wendy and Jack.
January rolls around, and Danny gets a vision of Jack carrying a croquet mallet; he also gets a reminder about “Redrum.” Meanwhile, in Miami, Dick Halloran has a seizure; Danny is calling him for help telepathically. He jumps in the car and goes straight to the airport.
The voices tell Jack where to find a fully stocked bar, and he can’t resist anymore. It’s not actually there, but it has the same effect as real booze. Delbert Grady offers to pour him another drink but says that Jack is expected at the party in the ballroom. There’s a huge party going on in there, with lots and lots of dead-looking people. Jack asks Grady about him being the former caretaker; Grady tells Jack that he has “always been the caretaker.” Grady suggests that Danny and Wendy need some discipline.
Halloran arrives in Denver, and they’re saying it might be the worst storm in ten years.
Jack attacks Wendy and accuses her of all kinds of bad things. After a struggle, she knocks him out. Danny says the hotel is just using Jack, and it’ll throw him away when it’s done with him. They drag Jack to a food storage room and shut him in. Meanwhile, the boiler hasn’t been released, and the meter shows it’s getting into the danger zone.
Jack talks Grady into opening the door and letting him out in exchange for taking care of Danny. Meanwhile, Halloran has rented a snowcat and drives the mountain to the Overlook. Wendy goes to talk to Jack but encounters ghosts instead. Jack, on the other hand, is gone.
She soon finds Jack, who has another croquet mallet. He hits her, and so does the magically-moving furniture. He’s completely insane by this point, and he thinks she’s the cause of all his problems. She hits him good with a croquet ball, runs away, and locks herself in their room. He soon breaks down the door, but Grady tells him about Halloran’s imminent arrival.
Halloran arrives, and the topiary to perk up. He goes inside, but Jack immediately bangs him a few times with his big hammer. Jack goes off in search of Danny. Meanwhile, Tony reminds Danny what will happen when the boiler explodes. As Jack confronts Danny about who the ghosts really want, Wendy tries to wake up Halloran. Jack has a moment of clarity and apologizes for everything, but that doesn’t last long; he tells Danny to run away quick.
Danny tells Jack about the boiler pressure, and Jack screams on the way to the basement. Grady and Derwent tell Jack to hurry up with the boiler, and he turns the valve. Danny contacts Jack telepathically, telling him that_ he_ could stop the ghosts. Jack turns the valve back shut again. Jack and Grady fight over the valve, but it’s too late.
Outside, Halloran, Wendy, and Danny watch the topiary get ready to attack. The boiler explodes, and so do all the topiary animals. The hotel quickly burns to the ground with Jack and all the ghosts inside.
Ten years later, Halloran and Wendy watch Danny graduate from high school. Danny now looks exactly like Tony did; he was a vision of the future all along. Danny also sees Jack there, who congratulates him. There’s a sign outside the ruins of the Overlook that it’s being rebuilt…
Part 1: For the most part, it’s all set-up, and also mostly the same as the 1980 film. This one just takes longer and has a lot more detail and discussion. It’s not boring; it just has a lot more exposition and shows us things they couldn’t in 1980. Unlike the first film, Jack seems like a nice, normal guy who has made some mistakes; Jack Nicholson seemed to hate his family from the get-go.
Part 2: Wendy here seems much more sensible and competent than the Shelley Duvall version, who seemed far too submissive and passive. The hotel is perfectly normal-looking, without the obviously ominous creep factor of the earlier film.
Part 3: It’s a little slow at first, but the action picks up after a while. Actually, the cat-and-mouse between Jack and Wendy goes on a bit too long. The ending is quite different from the 1980 film, since there’s not even a hedge maze in this one.
Overall: The acting here is really good, especially from Courtland Mead as Danny. He’s a weird-looking kid, but he plays the part perfectly. The CGI topiary hasn’t held up particularly well, but the makeup and other effects are all good. It’s maybe a little too long, but that’s the price to pay for including so much detail. Stephen King himself was directly involved in the production here, as he never liked the 1980 film, as too many things were changed from his book.
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