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Stephen King's The Shining (1997)
Director: Mick Garris

review by Steve Anderson

Obviously, at some point between Rose Red and Kingdom Hospital, Stephen King suddenly got strapped for ideas. So what did the man do? He said, 'Hey, I know! Rather than do something original, why don't I just bring out something I've already done, give it current special effects and run with it? But since I don't have the budget I had before, there's no way I can get any big name stars... I wonder what that one guy who used to be on Wings is doing?'

And so, one quick call to Steven Weber later, Stephen King had his answer: a completely rebuilt version of The Shining, which bears only a passing resemblance to the original movie, which bore only a passing resemblance to the book. The plot is largely the same, though. Recovering alcoholic and son of abusive parentage Jack Torrance (Weber) takes a job as the caretaker of one of the biggest and most famous hotels in and around Sidewinder, Colorado (not that it's hard to be the biggest or most famous anything in Sidewinder, Colorado) - the Overlook. Jack moves in, planning to spend the winter keeping an eye on the rambling old hotel along with his lovely wife Wendy (played ably by Rebecca De Mornay) and son Danny, played by a pretty much unknown (Courtland Mead) with a total gift for this kind of thing. Damn. Just, damn. The kid communicates fear like there's no tomorrow. He makes Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense look like was a day at Disneyland.

Danny has a gift, which I'm sure we all know about by now, and it comes across this time in the person of Tony, Danny's imaginary friend. No talking to a crooked finger this time - no, no. Danny gets to talk to a real human being-shaped imaginary friend, who looks creepily like the kid from the old Encyclopedia Britannica commercials. Most kids' imaginary friends favour a quick game of hopscotch... Danny's likes to float in midair, alter street signs at will and cause fire hoses to sprout teeth and attack in horrific, death-filled visions of the future.

Off they go into the Overlook, for two long months of paranoia, mystery, the occasional murder and a half naked rotting chick who's got a taste for little boys. Jack goes just as nuts in this version, arming himself, and chasing down his wife and child to kill them in the name of the management of the Overlook. And we're not talking the guys signing J ack's paycheque, either...

But Jack gets a little too caught up in the whole 'kill the family' aspect of the job, and forgets one tiny little detail. Here's a moral for you, folks... the devil is in the details. And when Jack forgets, the Overlook goes straight to hell. Literally. And then perhaps the strangest part hits at the epilogue, where Danny is treated to a Star Wars-esque vision of his dead father during a graduation ceremony from the school his father taught at. And even weirder... Danny in the future looks exactly like Tony did. The Encyclopedia Britannica kid, again. Danny, you poor dumb schmuck! You grew up to look like the kid in the encyclopedia commercials. Hang yourself now!

And the Overlook isn't as dead as we give it credit for... it starts rebuilding this summer. There's a lot that's changed from one version of The Shining to another. For instance, the new version has completely removed the classic "Here's Johnny!" scene. Also gone is the legendary "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" sequence that Jack Nicholson made famous. The axe is also gone.

In their absence, we now have scenes involving moving topiary animals, and a backboard shattered by one of Danny's psychic pulses. Weirder yet, the axe that so menaced the Torrances way back when has now been replaced by a giant croquet mallet that looks and swings more like a solid wooden sledgehammer.

While I'm thinking about it, what's Stephen King's deal with rats? They've been all over his work - The Stand, Graveyard Shift, and now this. And abusive parents, too - ever since It, this has been a theme running through his stuff; child abuse and rats. Plus, we get this line in the middle: "Don't thank me, thank your higher power." Why not name it?

And on a truly nifty note, filed under 'excellent planning', the scene selections appear in blocks of six - moving the cursor across them in order spells out the word 'redrum'. When you compare this 273-minute TV miniseries to Kubrick's The Shining, you find that the new version is much less shiny than the original.
Stephen King's The Shining

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