Hello all and welcome to round 5 of my 'Battle of the Remakes' series. Today I am going to be reviewing both the 1980 and 1997 versions of Stephen King's classic story 'The Shining' and seeing which one reigns supreme. For the first four rounds of the series, click the links below:
I am going to split this review into five different sections: Characters, Acting, Special effects/Make up, Book-film similarity and a General Overview. Now of course this review is going to be a little different to the previous installments, as the story is originally from the mind of Stephen King, therefore I will be comparing both films to the 1977 book a fair bit.
So both of the films had identical characters. Wendy, Jack, Danny, the woman in 217 (or 237 for Kubrick), Halloran, the dog, Grady and many more. I would say that both of the movies had some good characters and some bad, with obvious differences from the book in the original.
But who was the better Jack?
Jack Nicholson delivered what has grown to be one of the best performances by an actor to date. He was insane, and he fit the role of an axe wielding psychopath pretty well, if I don't say so myself. Steven Weber however, looked exactly as described in the book and acted just as the fictional character would. He was the perfect fit, and I personally prefer him. I won't discredit Nicholson's performance however, as it was VERY good, but more Kubrick's version of Jack then Kings. For this reason, I'm going to make it a tie.
Rebecca De Mornay. Absolutely no question about it. I'm sorry, but I refuse to even give Shelley Duvall credit for, well, absolutely anything. De Mornay looked the part, she acted the part, and was the brave strong woman that King described her as, who stood up to her husband when he started to go a little batty. No, she did not have black hair, no she did not have an awful high pitched voice, yes she was attractive, and no, she wasn't shaking in her boots when she had to confront Jack. No competition, enough said.
Hmm this is a tough one. I think that Courtland Mead did a pretty respectable job as a child actor, but if I'm honest I would say that Danny Lloyd was the better...Danny. Although I thought the whole Tony thing that Lloyd was doing with his finger was plain stupid, I can't blame him, so I'll just blame Kubrick. Although again, Danny Lloyd was just doing as he was told, and acting nothing like the character described, I find him less....annoying.
Better Dick Halloran?
Now those of you who have read the book will know that Dick Halloran was actually a fairly main character, with a decent part of the story seen from his point of view. The character wasn't really like how I'd imagined in either adaptation, but I guess that doesn't really matter - what matters most is who played the part better. Hmmmmmmm tough decision to make. I personally prefer 'Melvin Peebels' interpretation of the character, but I will admit that Scatman Crothers did pretty well in the short amount of screen time he had, so I'm going to call it a draw.
Other side characters?
So there are a few interesting side characters in this story, including the woman in 217, the dog, Grady, the Grady twins, the hedge animals etc. I would have to say right away that this one would be another tie for characters, because although there were no Grady twins in the book, they certainly made for a creepy couple of scenes in the 1980 film. The hedge animals were done pretty damn badly in the remake (when they were seen moving), due to the low budget, but the lady in the bath made up for that, as she was definitely the better of the two.
So all in all, it's a dead tie for characters.
Original: 1 Remake: 1
Shelley Duvall. Shelley freakin' Duvall. Do I need to say more? If there was a 'worst actress on the face of the planet award', she'd be guaranteed to win it. She completely ruined that movie, and in honesty I have a hard time watching the scenes that she is in. Her high pitched awful voice, and just... UGH. Everything about her annoys me. Anyway, luckily Jack performed well, otherwise OMG. I would say apart from Wendy, and at times Danny, the acting from the rest of the cast was pretty up to scratch.
For the remake, I would say that the acting didn't start off too well, but it honesty got a lot better as the time ticked on (either that, or I just got used to it. Which probably isn't the case, because um, Shelley Duvall). Again, the cast all acted as their characters were described in the book, even if they weren't the best actors around. Saying this, I was pretty damn impressed with Rebecca De Mornay's acting (Wendy), so she can get a gold star for that. Once again, this section is going to be a tie.
Original: 2 Remake: 2
Special Effects / Make Up
Something that I always have to take into account with this section of the battle is the age difference between movies, and the budget of the films. The original Shining is obviously 17 years older, but it also had a huge budget compared to the miniseries.
Cutting straight to the chase, the original without a doubt had the better effects. The blood looks realistic, and the elevator scene and the twins axe scene in the hallway are both very impressive even today. The scene in 217 with the dead woman in the bath tub was definitely done better in the remake though, as she really did look a hell of a lot better. Although technically this isn't much of a fair comparison due to huge budget differences, the fact of the matter is that the original had the better effects, therefore wins this round.
Original: 3 Remake: 2
Now this is the section where I get to have a big whinge about how Kubrick totally disrespected King's classic tale. I'm going to be comparing the book to the movies, so I think it's needless to say that there are going to be some spoilers!
So off the top of my head, here are the main differences between the book and the original movie:
The hedge animals. WHERE were the demonic hedge animals? To be fair I do know that they didn't have the technology in 1980 to make the moving CGI hedge animals, but let's be honest, they could have at least tried to do it in a practical way.
The elevator. Granted, the blood gushing out of the elevator looks very effective, but it makes NO sense with the story line. The guests from all those years back were having a party upstairs, so the elevator was going up and down during the night, and the Torrances were finding party confetti on the elevator floor. There was never any blood.
The wasps and the basement. So in the book there was a big wasp nest that had been cleared out and given to Danny to keep in his room as an ornament. The following night, the wasps reappeared out of no where and stung Danny, which wasn't even hinted at in the original, which I found rather annoying.
The boiler. If the old boiler wasn't 'dumped' every night, it would heat up and eventually explode, destroying the hotel and killing Jack. No, Jack did NOT freeze to death, chasing Danny around a maze that was never in the book, but he was in fact possessed, therefore forgot to dump the boiler, which ended up exploding the hotel and killing him.
The mallet. Now this SUCKS. Kubrick changed Jack's weapon of choice from a big wooden mallet to an axe. Now you tell me which is more frightening - A: Having a relatively quick death with an axe, or B: Having your bones broken and being squished to a pulp by a croquet mallet until you eventually die. I know which I would prefer.The Hotel. The hotel layout in the original was totally different to how described in the book, so it totally ruined how you had imagined everything in your head. The remake however had the hotel just as described, so it was the perfect location in every way.
Halloran's death. What the F*CK Stanley Kubrick, killing off one of the main characters? Halloran does NOT die, but actually saves Wendy and Danny at the end of the story.
The dog. Woah woah woah let's get things straight, the dog was not performing oral sex, the dog was one of the party guests wearing a mask, and kept blocking the hallways so Danny could not get past, the way Kubrick included this character.... I just really wish he'd left it out altogether.
Tony. Oh my god Stanley Kubrick, what have you done. Tony wasn't an imaginary friend. Tony was a supernatural entity that helped Danny in the Overlook, and showed him visions of what was to come from the very beginning (the bloody mallet in the shopping bags for example). I was actually pretty upset at seeing Kubrick's piss poor interpretation of Tony, which SHOULD have had more thought put into it.
REDRUM. No no no no no no no. Redrum kept appearing on windows, doors, bedroom walls, and was written in blood most of the time. Danny also kept seeing where people had been murdered, with brain matter on the wall. That awful scene in the original where Danny picks up the knife and is just screeching 'redrum, redrum' whilst Wendy is asleep? Just... just no.
There are so many flat out failures in the Kubrick movie compared to the book, that I could go on FOREVER. You cannot tell that Jack really loved Danny, you cannot tell that they are poor, we get no back story and important aspects of the film like George Hatfield and the car tires, or breaking Danny's arm, Wendy killing Jack only to have him come back to life, and many many many more psychological thoughts that were going on in Jack's head. Jack and his recovery from being an alcoholic was also a HUGE aspect in the book, which was why he was so easily taken over by the hotel's inhabitants, which was merely hinted at in the original film. Kubrick basically bought the rights for the story from King, and then changed just about everything apart from the name.
Original: 3 Remake: 3
Okay so I imagine that it's quite clear by now that if this was a personal opinion article, I would without a doubt have the remake as the winner. This is however and article on which of the two is BETTER. I'm not going to deny that the original film is definitely scarier, and is also technically the better film - due to a high budget and an experienced director. It has chilling visual effects and some very eerie scenes, and has been named one of the scariest and best films ever made.
The remake stuck right with the original story, it had (in general) the better characters, the better plot, and the more believable story line. We had a Jack who actually looked and acted possessed (see picture above) compared to a Jack who seemed like he had just lost his marbles.
So as I said before, if this was a personal opinion, I would give the general overview point to the remake, because I totally prefer it. I am however going to be fair and also give a point to the original, simply because it has gained such a classic status over the years, is a brilliant movie whether it follows the book or not, and it is still genuinely frightening now.
Original: 4 Remake: 4