Thursday, September 4, 2014

"The Shining"

I had just started kindergarten in September of 1981. I don't think I'd been more than a week into starting my schooling when something happened that not only polarized my future upbringing, but also blew out the inside of my mind completely.

I was playing outside in the backyard by myself one evening, and it was just starting to get a little dark; Angie was next door with friends, and Mitchell wasn't there. Dad came out of the shed that was tacked onto the rear of the house; he invited me to come in, and that there was something on that I had to come and check out.

What could it be? I came into the living room, and there was a movie on, showing something I hadn't seen before. It was about twenty minutes into it, so I had to sort of piece together what was going on as I was watching. It seemed to be about a family who was in this massive (and empty) hotel somewhere in the mountains, looking after it. What drew me in right away was a tight shot of a kid around my age on a bigwheel, riding all around through this huge hotel, almost in a huge circle. I had myself one of those, but--damn, that looked like fun!

What was being shown was Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Shining. I had never heard of it, nor had I ever heard of those two names before. I recognized Jack Nicholson vaguely from the movie version of Tommy, where he was the "specialist" who tries to cure Roger Daltrey by having electrodes taped all over his face, and melon-ball cutters over his eyes. This time, he was actually acting in a movie, and I was impressed by his performance. In one sitting, I was introduced to Stanley, Stephen and, talk about a crash course! This was going to be an interesting ride!

All I can say for my fist-ever viewing was that I was drawn in. Completely. I didn't move, didn't get up to get something to eat, or go to the bathroom. I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen for the remainder of the time that it was on. I was mesmerized by all what was going on, the settings, the atmosphere, the music...everything.

The that was an interesting facet of the movie. I was astonished years later to find out that the music (apart from the Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind synthesizer compositions) was not composed for the movie; it was selected from Kubrick's own picks, and all of them went perfectly with what was going on. Hearing things like Bartok's "Music For Percussion, Strings and Celesta" and Penderecki's pieces during the latter half were opening up some new doors in my head. Even hearing something like "Midnight, The Stars and You" was a little on the haunting side, almost ghostly in a way.

I had some seen some stuff in the "horror" genre before, such as Damien: Omen II and The Amityville Horror, but this was something different entirely. For me, it was more "haunting" than scary. There were lots of scenes and/or images that stayed with me long after it was over. You could never forget the image of the Grady girls lying dead in the hallway, the encounter in Room 237, the conversation with Grady himself in the men's room, Hallorann's fate, and the final image of Jack frozen in the snow. So many others, and everyone has their favorite, but this was definitely unlike anything I had ever seen before, or virtually anything after that. I knew I had to be the only five-year-old watching this; actually, it was almost like seeing it from Danny's point of view, as I was exactly his age at that moment. We thought he was great, and wished he lived nearby, so we could hang out with him!

Well! I couldn't wait to see it again. It might have been a week later when we asked if Mitchell could stay the night at our place, and--as luck would have it--the movie was on again, and this time I got to watch it from the beginning. And there we sat, the three of us, right up front, for the next 144 minutes. Everything really fell into place for me this time. And it was great to share the experience with Angie and Mitchell. I know they liked it. The next morning, when we went outside, Mitchell wanted to play a game (of some sort) based on the movie. Of course, he wanted to be Danny, and so I got to chase after the others with an imaginary axe! Oh, if only someone had a camcorder on us at the time!

Another time, not long after that, we watched A Clockwork Orange (typical of the cable channels, they were showing Kubrick's other films as well). Definitely not something to be watched by a small gaggle of grade-schoolers, but we did, and were equally as mesmerized, even if we didn't understand everything that went on in it (let alone the "nadsat" slang throughout it). Although I didn't catch that Kubrick had directed this one as well, I noticed that the two films sort of went hand-in-hand for some reason!

Another seed of influence had been sown into me gulliver.

When it snowed a few months later, I was out in the backyard, and I suddenly remembered the part with Danny in the maze, making fake footprints in the snow. I went and did that myself, leading my tracks halfway toward the garage. Unfortunately, no-one noticed, and they got covered over by more snow rather quickly.

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