‘This inhuman place makes human monsters.’ The Shining.

3995322Ok… So you know what I was saying yesterday about Nervous Conditions. Well. That may have sort of come back to bite me a little. The exam that I was talking about? It was horrible. Actually, that should be capital. Horrible. And so, dear friends, I ended up sitting in that very exam hall less than five hours ago on the verge of very nearly dying from panic (honestly, no heart rate should go to 167bpm) when I thought of one thing that could very possibly transport me from that particular sports hall into my happy place. As you may have guessed, that may possibly have been The Shining. I mean, if I’m completely honest, any of those questions which I most certainly could not answer with my own texts would have been infinitely better if referring to The Shining. I mean, at least answerable. Oh God. So, as a homage to my favouritest book of all time (excuse the english, post-traumatic stress) I thought I’d try to do it justice with one of my usually nonsensical reviews.

So yeah, The Shining, is my ultimate happy days novel. The book I go to when I just can’t deal with things. A beaming light (‘scuse the pun) in a dank world of exam drudgery and general angst. I know this sounds strange, especially if you have read the book, but honestly, for all of its gruesome imagery and creepy characters, I have to say I believe it to be an article of perfection. Even though my own personal copy contains at least six typos… Sorry! I also count it as my gateway into the horror world. I’d seen it on the shelf every day for around thirteen (coincidence?) years and every day had walked past thinking, knowing, that there would be something special about it. I don’t know how, I mean it’s not just that it’s revered internationally by horror-lovers and loathers alike. It’s not just that it led to a shockingly executed but highly popular cult film. Not even that the shockingly broken spine gave me some sort of prescient tingle of fear. I’m just not sure, it just looked good. Good enough that I was happy to sneak it from that very shelf and, despite the sleepless nights that followed, devouring it in a matter of days…

Now, it doesn’t start particularly well, but even then, you’re being drawn right into the scene – observing the thoughts of Jack Torrance as he uses his ‘PR grin’, one part that did work in the film, to procure him his fateful job as the hotel caretaker. We’re then transported back to his family waiting at home, Wendy and Danny, eagerly awaiting Jack’s return. We’re introduced very quickly to the problems prevalent in the Torrance family as seconds in, Wendy is already alone, crying upstairs. Back to Jack, being shown around. We are introduced to the boiler (no need for spoilers, but watch this space) and then rapidly back to Danny who shows his first signs of having something special, a force, later known as ‘shining’ which as the name suggests becomes increasingly significant as the story goes on. Jack returns and we are again alerted to his troubled family relationships and given an insight into some other disturbing previous events… And before not too long we’re at part 2 where the whole family have finally arrived at the hotel. There’s freaky images of nuns, but the atmosphere is relatively positive. Until everyone leaves and silence falls over the hotel. It’s not long before things then start to become really really strange.

The Overlook is a world of eternal ghost parties, bleeding clocks and of course REDRUM. Madness, innocence and the shining. Jack descends steadily into complete obsessive madness as the hotel begins to take control and in turn Danny and Wendy become privy to its effects. Which could only make them more nervous, I guess. I mean, I’m not sure, but living with a madman in a blocked off hotel cannot be much fun. Especially if you don’t realise before it’s a little bit too late. As he gets madder and madder, one can’t help but get more and more absorbed. I guess that is Stephen King’s true talent. He is a fabulous storyteller. I guess that’s the point, I suppose he has to be for the day job. But it’s really true. And it’s not just cheap thrills he provides in his stories, but genuine undercurrents of absolute gritty fear. He gets people. No, I can say that better. He understands the human psyche. Can get into the scariest parts of the human brain and relay them back to us in a neatly horrific package. There are sickening moments (see brains on the walls), gore (I always shiver with the story of the previous caretaker) and very real human anxiety (deep seated family issues, child abuse etc). It caters to every sense, and seriously, after reading it I can no longer walk past any topiary animals.

I guess it’s just the way he strikes the balance between thriller and close-to-home psychological horror stories. I mean, the point is, I guess anyone would go mad if left to their own devices in an empty hotel for three months. It would be impossible not to. Add to that the ‘power’ of the hotel, just trying to make things worse, controlling you. Using you. Now, who wouldn’t jump off the sane train? I would only hope that I wouldn’t go so far as to fall in love with a boiler, but you know beggars can’t be choosers. Include the explosive ending (which may plausibly be jumping the shark a little) and the inspirational escape efforts from Danny and Wendy and you have a completely fabulous end product. Not just a haunted house story, but a real horror story. That strikes one to the bone.

Really not bad, especially considering it’s based on a John Lennon song…

*****

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