Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Shining: Heeeeeere's Terror!

jack nicholson,stanley kubrick,the shining,movie poster

Over the weekend before Halloween, the Lady and I watched a bunch of horror movies. We were too busy the actual weekend of Halloween to watch anything more than The Nightmare Before Christmas, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Luckily for me, I can watch a dozen horror movies a day and not have an issue, but unfortunately, somebody I know was having some difficulty sleeping after movies like Funny Games, Saw and The Shining. I've been meaning to watch this film all the way through for awhile, now. I read the novel a few times over the last several years, and I've heard that the adaptation isn't as good as the novel. The interesting thing about The Shining is that it's good on its own merits, separated from the novel. The novel is great, and examines the psychology of horror, and I really enjoyed the treatment of the supernatural, psychic abilities, and ghostly possession.

Stanley Kubrick is a pretty crazy guy. He had a tremendous reputation from the actors that he worked with, and almost every movie that he directed is extraordinarily twisted, creepy, interesting, and well directed. The camera angles are interesting, mise-en-scene well thought out and full of subtle meanings that I can't even remember off the top of my head, and a subtlety of movement (or lack thereof), as well as an extremely interesting use of pacing and editing (jumping from the first day to like a month later, and Jack's slam-cut in the hedge maze).

shelley duvall,jack nicholson,the shining

Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is a recovering alcoholic ex-schoolteacher, who accepts a job as a caretaker for a large hotel during the winter off-season. His wife Wendy (Duvall) will accompany him, as well as his young son Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is obviously a special boy, as the film quickly and clearly establishes. A boy named Tony speaks through Danny occasionally, and he doesn't want to go to the Overlook, but doesn't explain why. They basically move to the hotel at the end of the summer season, before the weather gets cold, and Danny speaks with Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), an elderly man who is also a psychic, and tells Danny that it's called "the shining." As they live in the hotel, just the three of them, in a gigantic hotel, Jack tries to write a novel, Wendy tries to keep them together, and Danny just likes to be vaguely creepy and ride his big wheel around the hallways. Jack sinks progressively farther into a strange psychotic depression, and it's difficult to tell whether the hotel itself begins providing him with alcohol, or if he imagines the whole thing. Danny begins having visions revolving around room 237, as well as some really creepy twins that show up, the murdered daughters of a previous caretaker. Jack eventually gives in to the anger and alcohol, and tries to murder his wife and son, just as the previous caretaker had (though the last caretaker succeeded).

the twins,the shining

Kubrick is a great director, which I think I said before. It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but it's pretty impressive what he's able to do with pacing, storytelling, and shot composition. This was also Kubrick's first film in which the Steadicam was used, and some of the most iconic steadicam tracking shots in cinema are from this film (mostly the shots tracking behind Danny as he BigWheels around the hallways of the hotel).

I need to read the novel again; I had always heard that there was some dispute with Stephen King that he didn't particularly enjoy the film as an adaptation of his novel. I think the film could have easily gone itno more about Danny and his abilities; as it is, and perhaps because of the young age of the actor, he's a relatively minor character, which is pretty annoying to me. I've always found that King can write some interesting child characters, especially ones that are touched by special gifts that are potentially dangerous and harmful. Also, as far as I know, Danny Lloyd was only in one other movie in his short and young career (also, I've read that he didn't know The Shining was a horror film until he was 17; Kubrick protected him pretty well during filming so he thought he was just in a drama, apparently).

This movie is creepy and scary as hell. It's interesting, and has been analyzed multiple times in terms of any messages it may contain regarding the family, humanity, as well as certain issues like substance abuse (relatively common for King at the time, considering his own problems), and general social concerns Kubrick tends to stick in all of his films. It's strikingly horrible in a lot of ways (n the good way, not bad, but full of horror), and it's definitely a classic that should be checked out.

I give it four big-toothed Shelley Duvalls out of five, or four seemingly slow but apparently psychic creepy little boys on Big Wheels out of five.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Zombieland: Land of the Dead, Home of the Kickass

zombieland,movie poster

Should I try to pretend like I didn't really post in October because I didn't want to flood the blog-o-nets with movie blogs related to horror movies, and I made a conscious decision to back off and blog about them in November, when people usually drop the horror stuff and move on the the happy sappy Sandra Bullock movies and Eddie Murphy catastrophes? No? Well, ok, it was worth a shot.

I did see Zombieland in the theaters a few weekends ago, and remember when I said I was looking forward to it, hoping that Adventureland would serve as some sort of prequel? Well, unfortunately, it wasn't, but it did have that Eisenberg kid in it, and he doesn't even get eaten by zombies. Oddly, he did get bitten by a werewolf in Wes Craven's Cursed, which was just on TV the other day and it was pretty not great, but oh well. That's not my original point. Which was... right! Zombieland. It was directed by Rueben Fleischer, and written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. There's also a pretty amazingly awesome celebrity cameo, and thats pretty much it for the cast. Everyone else is zombified. It's a pretty good zombie film, and a good comedy. It's not really an homage/parody like Shaun of the Dead, but it's still a pretty interesting movie, especially considering its minimalist cast and snappy dialogue. Usually, Zombie films aren't known for that sort of thing.

zombieland,columbus,jesse eisenberg

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a list of rules that have kept him alive during the zombie plague. He doesn't survive because he's strong, or brave, or awesome, but because he's an overly cautious nerd. Tallahassee (Harrelson), on the other hand, is a brash, burly, Southern zombie killing machine, who survives purely because he loves to kill zombies. Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin) are con-artist sisters who find themselves mixed up with the two guys. They go by towns instead of names, but they end up crossing much of the country together, killing zombies, getting into shenanigans, and stealing from each other. According to the film's plot, zombies were created out of some sort of mutated mad-cow diseases, a mad-human disease, if you will. Possibly a subtle nod to the merits of vegetarianism? There's plenty of zombie mayhem, people being chased and then eaten, as well as plenty of zombies getting shot, hit with cars, having pianos dropped on them, being cut up and sliced up, all the good stuff that we love to see in a zombie film. The film climaxes in a totally insane battle in an amusement park, where a thousand or so zombies swarm around our heroes, forcing them to try and kill the population of a decent sized school.

woody harrelson,jesse eisenberg,columbus,tallahassee,zombieland

While it's not quite as good as Shaun of the Dead in the respect of a comedy or a zombie film, it definitely does its best to hit that mark. It's not a bad movie, by any means. It's wholly entertaining, gory, sometimes shocking (in the sense that sudden appearance of a frightening zombie from nowhere), and an interesting take on the idea of surviving the zombie apocalypse. The idea that a skinny kid like Columbus could survive as long as he did (seemingly one of five normal humans left in the United States) because of his list of rules, caution, preparation, and above all, cardio, is quite interesting.

I've long said that if something like the zombocalypse ever actually happened, the nerds would really be the ones to survive the longest. While we never see Columbus being a fan of zombie movies, or knowing a lot about them implicitly, he is able to build up his list pretty quickly, without dying while compiling it. He has some good advice on there, too, and is pretty practical. I haven't finished reading my Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks yet, but I would imagine that there are a few of these same tips inside (like Cardio, Check the Back Seat, etc.). Apply these instructions in a practical, zombie-filled setting!

Is this film still in the theaters? It might be. If it is, it's worth checking out. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's after Halloween. Honestly, that's just the time of year that people that don't watch horror movies want to watch horror movies. In reality, they're always good all the time. Especially in fall, where it gets dark early, it's the perfect time for spooky movies. Or, not, whatever, I can't force you to watch anything!

I give Zombieland four totally insane celebrity cameos that I'm trying hard not to spoil for everyone out of five, or four kick-ass dog-loving NASCAR-watching gun-toting zombie killing machine Woody Harrelsons out of five.

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