‘The Shining’ review

12 10 2010

[written by author, Kaaron Warren]

Ghosts have always scared me more than vampires or werewolves or even the guy I used to go to school with who had a pocket full of very small dolls.

Ghosts have intent. Purpose. They are there for a reason and they know more than you do about what comes next, what happens when you die.

They’ve seen it and they didn’t stay there.

So I love a good ghost story, and The Shining is one of the best. I talk about the first night I saw it, here at Temple Library Reviews.

It opens happily, with a fresh start  for the Torrance family, driving through the mountains to a new job for Jack. All seems fine. Then we hear about the Donner party, who became cannibals. “They had to, in order to survive,” Jack says with barely concealed glee. So we see already that he likes to scare his kid, that he takes a sort of pleasure in it. This is the first ghost; this hint that all is not right.

We begin the tour of the hotel, and meet Dick Hallorann. He and Danny (who talks to his finger) bond quickly. Hallorann talks to Danny about the smell of toast, how it leaves an echo. I love the way Scatman Crothers pronounces toast, whistling his s, leaving off the last t. The smell of toasssss and there is the ghost of that word left in the air, giving us time to think about the smell of toast, how it makes you think of the person who made it and is no longer in the kitchen.

Hallorann tells Danny about the ghosts in the hotel, who hang around like toast. The smell of them, the hint of them. Stories to be told. And we soon come to know the sort of person attracted to the place. These people have much in their pasts. They’ve stolen and raped, they’ve killed. They are in a club I don’t want to belong to.

There’s Grady; so evil, so restrained. I’ve heard that Kubrick based the twin girls on the Diane Arbus photograph “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967

There are the ghosts in the bar, lost souls. I’ve been in bars like that at three in the morning, and you think you’re having a good time, then you find yourself arguing with the bartender about how much vodka is in your glass, and you turn around and there are pale empty faces in the room, sitting in groups but all of them alone. The bar in The Overlook is like that, all of them laughing, heads thrown back this is hilarious, darling, so funny, yet inside I’m dying. I’m already dead and I know I am yet I’m trapped in this hell of shallow.

The Overlook Hotel is full of peripheral ghosts. We only glimpse them, but every one has  a story, a tragedy of some kind. All of them as awful Jack’s story or the twins murdered by their father or the woman in room 237. That woman, left to die alone in the bath; you think, what was her life? How sad was she?

The Hotel is full of photographs, and the photographs are full of ghosts. They say, “Look at what was. What could have been. What no longer is.”

I had to read the book to figure out what the photographs meant. This was how I discovered Stephen King. I saw the movie, I read the book, I was hooked. The Shining novel scared me more than any other book has, because to me it says, “There are ghosts everywhere. You can’t see them, but they’re watching. And they’re whispering in your lover’s ear to hurt you. They’re whispering in a stranger’s ear, in your mother’s ear. They’ll whisper in your ear, too.”

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2 responses

13 10 2010
Michele Cashmore

Hey Kaaron – great review. I enjoyed Stanley Kubrick’s film but must say I rather enjoyed the television mini series – see below:

But of course the best of all was indeed the book. I read the book on its first release in 1977 and was scared senseless and hooked on Stephen King ever since. The movie was released in 1980 and I suppose some of my disappointment from the film was that the book was far more terrifying. I wanted to experience the same terror on the screen (which I didn’t) but of course still a great film.

The Shining the novel still remains to be one of the most powerful horror pieces I’ve read to date and is a classic.

SK rox!

Thanks for sharing 🙂

13 10 2010
Kaaron Warren

Thanks, Michelle! I think I saw the miniseries, but the movie and the way the actors portrayed the roles was so stuck in my mind it was hard to cope with.

The book remains my top horror novel, as well. I do love The Stand as well; there are moments in that book where my blood chilled. Really chilled.

The Shining is one of the novels that inspired me to keep writing, and to write stories with layered characters, with backgrounds and histories. I love the way King writes echoes into his characters, so that what’s been is remembered, not forgotten as the plot demands.

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