Stephen King's The Shining

Starring: Rebecca De Mornay, Steven Weber, Courtland Mead, Wil Horneff, Melvyn Van Peebles & Elliott Gould
Warner Home Video
RRP: £19.99

Certificate: 15
Available now

A drying-out alcoholic is given the job of caretaker for the remote and empty Overlook Hotel during the Winter months. He plans to finish the script for his new play, while his wife and young son enjoy the run of the huge building. However, atrocities including murder have taken place within its confines, and the boy is sensitive to the spirits of the past. They see his gift, known as the Shining, as a threat and the instrument of destruction is the father...

It's difficult to readily classify this one. One thing that's immediately evident is, unlike Rose Red, The Shining is suited to the four hours plus miniseries format. There's a definite logical progression of events; the characters are changed by each supernatural occurrence, and this makes them more real in terms of a family placed in peril. The fact that the father is a drunk in rehab should have been superfluous to the plot, as it is the hotel and its spirits which slowly bend his mind. They infiltrate his mind, causing him to blame his wife and particularly his son for everything that has gone wrong with his life.

Surprising as it may seem, this is a significantly better interpretation of the book than the better known movie. Stanley Kubrick was undoubtedly one of the greatest film directors of our time, but I think it's safe to say he structured them primarily for maximum visual impact. Here, with only a handful of special effects, we have a much more lovingly handcrafted story full of deft touches rather than one or two sledgehammer scenes which broadcast a demand to take notice.

A good scene takes place in the topiary, where Jack, the father, half-witnesses each of the animal-shaped hedges shaking itself free of snow. As nearby swings begin to move of their own accord, and voices call invitingly from a playground model of the hotel, the hedge animals appear to encroach menacingly nearer, only to abruptly return to their original positions, covered in snow, as if nothing has happened.

Courtland Mead as the boy Danny Torrance deserves a special mention here. Unlike many prominent child roles which are inherently annoying, this one refuses to conform to the stereotypical crying, shouting and feet-stamping, allowing the viewer, through soft nasal tones, to sympathise with his plight. Unlike the movie, this adaptation centres just as much on the son as the father.

Extras on this two-disc set include a commentary by Stephen King and selected cast and crew, and a staggering eleven additional scenes. Disc one is two-sided, but that's a minor quibble and it does effectively separate parts one and two of this three-part tale. This will satisfy both King fans (there's only two of them?) and regular junkies of horror and suspense. Well worth the money.

Ty Power


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