ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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The Shining (Mini-series) (1997)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Mick Garris

Starring:
Steven Weber/Jack
Rebecca De Mornay/Wendy
Courtland Mead/Danny
Melvin Van Pebbles/Dick
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
When writer and recovering alcoholic (aren’t we all?) Jack Torrance (Weber) gets a winter job as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, his wife Wendy (De Mornay) and psychic kid Danny (Mead) tag along. Once there, the ghosts of the hotel use Danny as a channeling tool through which to gain strength while at the same time possessing good ol' Jack and eventually using him as a physical wrecking ball. Now that’s a vacation!
THE LOWDOWN
I haven’t read "The Shining" book, so purists don’t hunt me down with pitchforks and rabid hamsters on leashes upon reading this review. With that out of the way, I love the Kubrick version of the novel, but knowing that he took a lot of liberties in regards to the source material, I came into this TV version (which is supposed to be very faithful to the book) with a very curious mind.

What I particularly enjoyed in this retelling was the layered way in which the characters were written and interpreted. Shite, even Dick Hallorann (Pebbles) got more air time here! I was happy about that, he a kool mofo. Now let’s face it, in Kubrick’s version, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) was already "coo-coo for moth balls" to begin with and ready to kill his family by frame two. As for Wendy (played by Shelly Duvall), she was a mousy yelping twig and there wasn’t much more to her than that. Here, I felt that Jack (played by the able Stephen Weber) was a good man at heart fighting his own demons and subsequently fighting the Hotel’s influence. That gave him more “meat” and I got to care about him on a deeper level. The same can be said about Rebecca De Mornay’s Wendy. Here, she felt like a well-rounded woman with some intelligence to back her up. Sure, she took in lots of abuse, but there was strength to the gal that was missing in Duvall’s rendition of the character.

The first two hours of this mini-series were my favorite, with the characters being established strongly, the awesome locations being milked for all they were worth from a visual standpoint and two very strong scenes scaring the crap out of me being the “Jack and the hedges scene” (wonderfully shot) and the room "217 lady thang”. I also relished the overall restraint of the “scare” scenes, the execution of Jack’s progression from troubled man to loony tune and the intoxicating anticipation I felt as to what was going to happen to these fine folks; it gnawed at me like a carpet-moocher. I have to prop director Mick Garris for knowing how to build momentum and pace his scenes in order for them to hit hard. Great job, dude!

Now for the bad news: running at 273 minutes "The Shining: TV Mini-Series" felt mucho redundant in places and that sometimes affected its credibility. An hour could’ve easily been shaved off this puppy’s behind. There are just so many times I can buy the wife and the kid witnessing weird ass shite and then proceeding to STAY at the Hotel and go about their regular lives. The same can be said about Wendy believing Jack’s false promises on way too many occasions. At a certain point, I was like “girl, wake up already and get the hell out of dodge!”

The violence to my brain didn’t stop there. The mallet came down and cracked my skull a few times when it came to:

The character of Danny: Courtland Mead just didn’t do it for me. Not only was he dressed up exactly like “Chucky” the killer doll for some reason, but he also failed to evoke the sympathy that I felt for the excellent Danny Lloyd who played Danny in Kubrick’s "The Shining".

The tacky “human” manifestation of “Tony”: It bugged me to RAID heaven. He looked like a floating “Harry Potter Sr.” I dug the “Tony” angle way better in Kubrick’s rendition where he talked through Danny’s finger. It was creepier and more effective that way.

The sometimes “off” dialogue: They killed the word “Pup” and the line “Take your medicine” mercilessly. WE GET IT! Expand that vocabulary Jack! COME ON! On the flipside, there were also some great lines like: “My wife, Wendy, personifies the "Three B's": Blonde, Beautiful, and full of Bull!” I loved that one!

And lastly, the “so-so” ending brought me down. I didn’t feel it was brutal or horror-driven enough and it didn’t quench my thirst (TV boundaries, I guess). Taking into account all of the potent buildup I went through, the payoff was such a letdown. An axe would’ve been welcome at this party; it always makes it happen at my shin digs. The overly sappy and quite corny last frames of the picture also didn’t help. BARRRRF!

But overall, I still enjoyed the film. The striking imagery was there and the characters were mostly, very endearing. I guess it was the script that didn’t do it for me 100%. I was actually going to give it a higher rating before the last act rolled on. It just didn’t live up to my expectations. Having said that, enter this Hotel and check in: Jack Torrance will check you out! I know, I know, too "easy" of a one liner, right? What can I say...I’m tired today…
GORE
We get some blood, some light cuts, a tacky CGI hose with teeth (what was that all about?) and one ugly decomposing chick.
ACTING
Steven Weber (Jack) gave a grounded performance which upped the stakes of the movie in the process. I saw him as just a regular “Joe” going through all kinds of shite. Is it me or when he went psycho, he reminded me of Christian Bale in "American Psycho"? Rebecca De Mornay (Wendy) is a good actress and she gave a sweet performance here. I just couldn’t warm up to Courtland Mead (Danny) for some reason, even though his acting chops were decent. Melvin Van Pebbles (Dick) was very entertaining as the hip cat who knows a thing or two about a thing or two.
T & A
It’s made for TV; take a wild guess! IT’S A FREAKING GANGBANG! NOT!
DIRECTING
Garris showcases a sharp eye. This has to be his crowning achievement in terms of directing panache. I was mucho impressed! I loved his use of slow motion, the way he handled his flashbacks and how he capitalized on the locations to deliver some effective and chilling images.
SOUNDTRACK
I really dug the eerie score by Nicholas Pike. It captured the mood of the film perfectly.
DVD FEATURES
Distributor: Warner Brothers

IMAGE: Apart from the occasional white specs, the Widescreen anamorphic 1.85 image was on the ball.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound served its purpose, especially when it came to the score.

EXTRAS:

Audio Commentary: Mick Garris, Stephen King, Cynthia Garris and more come in at “Part 2” of the film (why not from the beginning?). All of the commentaries were separate (meaning they didn’t record them together) and varied in quality. We get lots of 'behind the scenes' stuff as to how King and Mick hooked up, lots of trivia and lots of Mick propping by King. Weber talks about the hardships of tackling the role and Mick goes on about the more technical stuff. I would’ve liked more Garris, but King was a pretty entertaining guy to listen to as well. He’s very funny and I enjoyed the Kubrick talk in particular.

We also get 11 Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Mick Garris) that went from kool (so that’s why he found the lipstick) to “ho-hum”.
BOTTOM LINE
Yes, I preferred Kubrick’s "The Shining" to this version; it was tighter, punched me harder and I got more visceral frights out of it, especially when it came to its conclusion. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate this Mini-Series though. I genuinely grooved on the fine acting by all, the captivating images and the occasional gripping scares. With the redundancy factor toned down and the payoff jacked up, I would’ve enjoyed this “redrum” on a higher plane. I really feel that the teleplay (written by King himself) needed some editing. Sue me, pay me, hate me, dump me, take me out for Whoppers…that’s how I feel about it. On that note, I’ll leave you with my fav line of the film: “Love means never having to say you're sober”. YEAHHHHHH!
BULL'S EYE
The film’s “teleplay” was penned by Stephen King himself.

Stephen King has a cameo as a band conductor named Gage Creed. Gage Creed was the name of the little kid in "Pet Sematary".

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the hotel used to act as the “Overlook Hotel” for this film. Ironically, that’s where Stephen King got the idea for the book, The Shining.
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