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The Shining (Scream Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Shining (Scream Factory) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Scream Factory
    Released on: March 12th, 2024.
    Director: Mick Garris
    Cast: Steven Weber, Rebecca De Mornay, Melvin Van Peebles, Courtland Mead
    Year: 1997
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Shining – Movie Review:

    Stephen King somewhat famously didn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, The Shining, so he signed on to work with Director Mick Garris on this three-part TV mini-series take which hit the airwaves courtesy of ABC in 1997.

    Did it turn out better than Kubrick’s take? No. But it is closer to the original source material.

    A quick plot synopsis for the one or two people out there unfamiliar with the story. A recovering alcoholic named Jack Torrance (Steven Weber - probably best known for his work on the long-running TV sitcom Wings) takes a job as a caretaker for the winter off-season at The Overlook Hotel, nestled up in the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife, Winnifred (Rebecca De Mornay) and young son Danny (Courtland Mead) pack their things and make the trip and Danny hits it off with the caretaker, an older black man named Dick Hallorann (Melvin Van Peebles) who realizes that Danny's got a psychic gift of sorts that he refers to as 'The Shining.' The rest of the staff takes off for the winter, leaving the Torrance family alone in the massive, sprawling hotel. As Danny starts to worry his parents by talking about an invisible friend of his named Tony, John's behavior becomes increasingly aggressive and eventually violent as he succumbs to the evil that inhabits The Overlook.

    At four and a half hours in length, this version of The Shining feels way too long. Yes, this was made as a TV mini-series and that does allow for a longer and more detailed take on the source material, but there's definitely something to be said for judicious editing and solid pacing, two things this adaptation lacks. On top of that, there's some really cringe-inducing dialogue here. Even if it was written by King himself, there are moments here where the dialogue feels so hammy and forced that you have to wonder how it got approved. As to the production values? The score is good and the cinematography isn't bad at all. The locations used to bring The Overlook to life work really nicely and the practical effects work is really strong, even if things are toned down in that department for a network TV audience (though creepy woman in the bathtub scene really stands out as especially well done in that department). Notice, however that was specifically said practical effects - and that's because the CGI used in the movie, which we see semi-often, is bottom of the barrel stuff even by the standards of digital effects from 1997.

    Let's talk about the performances. As far as Steven Weber goes, it's impossible not to compare him to Jack Nicholson, given that the latter's performance in Kubrick's take is nothing short of iconic. Maybe this isn't fair to Weber, but such is life and when compared to Nicholson, he's very flat. He doesn't do a bad job when his character is flying off the handle and going crazy, but in the quieter, more dramatic moments he's dull. He has very little chemistry when co-star De Mornay, who doesn't show the range of Shelly Duvall or generate as much pathos as effectively. That said, she's more interesting to watch here than Weber. Young Courtland Mead is okay as Danny, he doesn't do a bad job, while Melvin Van Peebles makes for a decent stand in for the role that Scatman Crothers played in the first version of the story to be filmed. Look for Elliott Gould in a cameo as the hotel owner – it’s interesting to see him pop up here but overdoes it.

    Garris’ direction is uneven. There are moments where we feel for the characters and they develop properly but then there are long stretches where, honestly, not a whole lot happens (characters wander around and/or have conversations that don’t really wind up amounting to very much). The film builds tension in its final act but never to the point where you’re on the edge of your seat. Ultimately, there are parts of this adaptation that work but not enough of them to really elevate this above mediocre.

    The Shining – Blu-ray Review:

    The Shining arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1 taken from a “new 2K Scan from the interpositive” although the packaging notes that “To provide the most complete version of the film, a few scenes have been upgraded from the best available, non-Interpositive source.” Those inserts do look a little soft but overall, this looks pretty good with decent detail and very nice color reproduction. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the image is clean, showing no print damage at all. Black levels look solid and detail is quite good. There’s no evidence of overzealous noise reduction nor are there any compression artifacts to complain about.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in English with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems to note here, the audio sounds just fine. The track is properly balanced, dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.

    The main extra is selection of audio commentary tracks featuring Author Stephen King, Director Mick Garris, Cast Members Steven Weber and Cynthia Garris and a few crew members including Visual Effects Supervisor Boyd Shermis that runs across all four episodes of the mini-series. Garris talks about the differences between adapting something for television versus film, wanting to do a proper adaptation of the book, working with the producers who he says were very supportive, some of the strange things that happened on location, working with his cast members, how the movie deals with abuse, having to trim some of the footage they shot to fit into the network's time slot, getting lucky with one giant snowfall happening during the shoot, how he came to work with King for the first time on Sleepwalkers, locations that were used for the movie, some of the cameos in the movie, the use of music in the series and other details. King discusses the themes that the story explores and his thoughts on this version of the story, casting the movie, where some of the ideas for the story came from, his thoughts on the characters in the story, where he was at during his personal life when he wrote the book, dealing with network TV restrictions, the way that the movie depicts alcoholism and his own struggles with drinking, his relationship with Garris, his thoughts on some of the editing and much more. Weber talks about landing the role and auditioning for the part, getting along with his co-stars, wanting to do his own thing with the role rather than redo what Jack Nicholson had done, what it was like on set, having to rehearse on his own with Rebecca De Mornay while Cynthia Garris talks about her makeup and shooting her bathroom scene, how long it took her to get into makeup, getting nervous in while in a bathtub full of water with a lighting rig overtop of her and reusing the contact lenses that were used for Ruby Dee's character in The Stand. Boyd Shermis talks about what went into the different effects set pieces featured in the movie and how some of them were accomplished and when and where digital effects were used versus practical effects. Lots of good info in here, it's interesting stuff.

    The second disc also includes eleven additional scenes running seventeen minutes presented with commentary from Garris explaining their context and why they were trimmed, as well as a trailer for the mini-series.

    The Shining - The Final Word:

    Mick Garris’ version of The Shining is definitely a more accurate adaptation of King’s original novel but what works on paper doesn’t always work on the big screen. Despite some moments that do genuinely work, the whole thing feels overly long and never winds up grabbing the audience the way it should. The Blu-ray edition from Scream Factory looks and sounds nice and the commentary is actually quite interesting, so those who enjoy this take on The Shining more than this writer can upgrade with confidence.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Shining Blu-ray screen caps!

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    • Darcy Parker
      Darcy Parker
      Senior Member
      Darcy Parker commented
      Editing a comment
      I will always wonder why Stephen King thought so highly of Mick Garris' adaptations of his books, because they mostly all suck.
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