The Tree of Life

Summary: A highly emotional, philosophically rich story, beautifully told with all the subjectivity and hypnotic effects of a dream.  It is not for amateurs.

Review: Films run along a spectrum of complexity.  On the one end, there stands the average romantic comedy or action film, with a plot recycled with new faces, locations and set pieces; the outcome is predictable, the box office dollars practically guaranteed, and its only goal is to entertain for a couple of hours.  On the other end, there is pure creativity, meat so rare it is nigh-impossible for average moviegoers to digest; this is film as dream and art, a trip of the mind and soul, and its goal is to baptize the viewer.  Here stands ‘The Tree of Life’.

Now to clarify, a film closer to the entertainment side is not necessarily any less a valuable work of art.  A light adventure like the original ‘Star Wars’ is impossible to compare with a philosophical journey like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.  They are both perfect, though one is comparable to a circle and the other to a sphere.  This is why I abandoned quantitative rating systems, as they end up cutting apples and oranges with the same slicer, so to speak.  There are now two films that stand as my favorites of the summer, and they cover the spectrum — one is ‘Super 8’, previously reviewed, and the other is ‘The Tree of Life’.  Both are emotionally powerful, but they access different parts of my spirit.

The film’s writer and director, Terrence Malick, has a simple method of breaking a potentially rudimentary plot down into a meditation — instead of following a three-act structure, he explores every moment as a memory, fragmented and disorganized, overlapping and meandering, not even coming together in the end to form a cohesive whole.  The structure, in short, belongs to the viewer.  We have to assemble the film into a story, much as we do our own memories.  The beauty of this is that there is never a single beat of Hollywood artificiality to shield us from the action.  It is there, as frustrating as life, engaging us.   The picture is hypnotic, even when you feel its length.  Malick’s fluid narrative allows him to duck in and out of perspectives and realities, sometimes jumping into dreams and fantasies without warning, presenting everything as an immediate, pressing question.  These questions pack the film, without answers, from start to finish.  To say ‘The Tree of Life’ is challenging is to say that fish swim in the sea.  Not everyone is a fisherman, and not everyone will be up for ‘The Tree of Life’.

If acting were my profession, there are several auteurs I’d love to work with — Scorsese, Nolan, Spielberg, Tarantino, and now I can add Malick to that list.  Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, not to mention the remarkable child actors who anchor the picture, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, and Tye Sheridan, never once blandly read their lines or strike an artificial pose for a composition.  They simply live in the frame, buoyed by the organic nature of Malick’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki‘s cinematography.  This is a surely a dream for any performer, the chance to disappear completely into a person who, interpreted by the randomness of Malick’s narrative, is at once naked and mysterious.

Usually I try to explore the philosophical themes of films I review, but in this instance I think it’s better for the film itself to pose its questions.  That is, after all, the entire point behind it.  I can’t sufficiently answer them, either, and even if I could, I doubt that articulating it here would affect anything of your potential experience.  The movie is a paradox, a story without a moral conclusion that forces you to make one, but lacks the hopelessness of ambiguity.  This is why it is an artistic experience and not entertainment; it does not check boxes.  It forces you to change to better appreciate it, or simply discard it in disgust.  Fools will complain about the money they wasted on admission; they are free to spend it on ‘Transformers’, next time, and be all the poorer for it.

As you can imagine, it’s almost impossible not to have a visceral response to a film like this.  To carry my meat analogy further, if a person with an immature taste in movies tries to chew ‘The Tree of Life’, they are likely to spit it out and complain.  Steak is not for babies.  You need teeth and knives to take in an experience like this, and it helps if it’s not your first meal.  It is, even for an experienced cinephile, positively dizzying.  There are many “gateway drugs” I’d recommend before taking the plunge, among them the works of Christopher Nolan, Charlie Kaufman, Frederico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick and the Brothers Coen, though the latter four all have advanced entries in their filmographies that stand right alongside ‘The Tree of Life’.

In short, this is a film I recommend for people who unabashedly love movies as an art form, not a diversion.  It is almost guaranteed to surprise you.  It will, one way or another, move you.

Classic Review: Eyes Wide Shut

Stars: ★★★★

Summary:  A Kafkaesque, terrifying exposé of sexual hypocrisy that stands with the best of Kubrick’s work.

Fair warning:  Because of the film’s disturbing subject, I will be handling mature sexual topics.  Be advised.

Review:  Stanley Kubrick’s acclaimed filmography is largely composed of intelligent, penetrating meditations on human nature.  Perhaps the most prominent subject is hypocrisy.  ‘The Shining’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ explored our hypocrisy of violence; famously and controversially, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ extended this critique to sexual violence in a disturbingly graphic fashion.  ‘Dr. Strangelove’ satirically blamed its nuclear holocaust on sexually dysfunctional leaders; ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ again attacks the American elite by way of a bizarre conspiracy of cloak-and-dagger sexual politics, and in the process levels a pointed accusation at humanity in general.  We like to think we’re above the basic instincts of our species, but Kubrick would have us know that we’re walking about with our eyes wide shut.  We are sexual creatures, and we’d better be honest about it.

Kubrick’s cinematic swan song is appropriately meta, to great effect.  The first step is to present audiences with an erotic thriller headlined by two attractive, bankable stars in a well-known relationship.  This draws folks in to see their fantasies realized in a carefully controlled environment.  The next step is to pull the rug out from under their feet, by refusing to show the leads having Hollywood sex with each other, and by forcing the viewer to share the protagonist’s confusion and frustration up to the last moment.  Just as ‘The Shining’ carefully condemns its gorehound audience, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ reminds viewers of their mental promiscuity and love of Hollywood exploitation.  The film’s loveless eroticism serves to put off viewers who are uninterested in this critique.  Instead of a sanitized, pleasant experience, the film’s orgy centerpiece is a flat-out terrifying, Kafkaesque nightmare — to me, it was scarier than ‘The Shining’ — so when the protagonist flees home to his wife, we’re right there with him.

‘Eyes Wide Shut’ defends monogamy, doubtless to the surprise of many self-appointed moral guardians, provided they could settle down for a few minutes to hear it out.  The carefully constructed sexual mythology of human society, and American culture in particular, squeezes the love and life out of monogamous relationships.  For reasons of class and religion, people lie about their most powerful undercurrent, and this results in mutually destructive hypocrisies.  The narrative hangs on two upscale parties held at mansions, the first masking its abusive sexual commerce in hollow pleasantries, the second reveling in open displays cloaked in ritual and threat — the point being, in a dream logic sense, they are the same event.  The multilayered narrative repeats images and themes in a lyrical way, uncovering the uncomfortable truth of each episode.  In the end, the couple has to come to terms with their desires to heal.  To experience true sexual union, stripping to the skin is not enough — they have to strip down to the heart.  Leave it to Kubrick to transform exploitative nudity into an artful statement of the human condition!

Kubrick is often labelled “cold”, but in truth he’s simply objective, standing apart from traditional Aristotelian storytelling because he refuses to digest a given film’s ideas into cheap, predictable, marketable patterns.  This is a film with a happy ending and a clear moral conclusion, but we have to go on an unusual journey to find it.  It was misunderstood in its theatrical release, but like most of Kubrick’s work from ‘2001’ on it has gradually won over critics and cinephiles.  For this reason, I call it a classic — a truly adult film.

MMM: How I Learned To Stop Full Metal Odysseys

James here with Movie Music Monday!

Three from the films of Stanley Kubrick.  If you’re a filmmaker, you’re required by law to appreciate Kubrick.  If you don’t, you get dropped out of a bomber over Russia.  Bring your cowboy hats, ye condemned.


The ending to ‘Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb’ is one of Kubrick’s finest moments.   This song plays over a truly lovely montage of giant mushrooms growing all over the globe.  What is ‘We’ll Meet Again’? Soundtrack Dissonance for 500, Alex.


Among the similarities between Kubrick and Tarantino are their use of long takes and iconic, violent sequences set to surf rock, such as this Trashmen hit in ‘Full Metal Jacket’.  What is ‘Surfin’ Bird’?  I’ll take Classical Film for 200, please.


In ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, Stanley Kubrick famously used classical music to frame sequences of silent space flight, such as this piece used over a docking sequence.  What is ‘Blue Danube’?

And just like that, I take the lead, but lose next round to the spectacled gentlemen who knows all the math questions. I do, however, avoid a very explosive fate on a Serbian mountain range.  Kubrick, love him or hate him, sure knew how to weave music into his works.   I think the Tarantino comparison is kinda neat, too.

The King’s Speech

Stars:  ★★★★

Summary:  Warm, resonant, and perfectly crafted cinema that pops with strong performances.

Review:  Something I notice about great movies is that they often play so strongly that it makes me wonder how everybody else missed the mark.  The drama is so deceptively organic that it leaves me, the stumbling storyteller, wondering how I became such a dunce.  If filmmaking is like a farming metaphor, ‘The King’s Speech’ was ripe for the picking.  If in truth we’re all walking about blindfolded, director Tom Hooper and company had fate’s guiding hand.  It’s so good that they must have cheated.

I’ll put off the puffery for a moment.  ‘The King’s Speech’ appears as a simple story, an inspirational drama about overcoming personal difficulties to do great things.  The trouble is, great movies like this aren’t simple, they’re just compact.  The tapestry is woven tight.  There are no bizarre rabbit trails or meaningless moments bridging story beats.  Every word, every shot, every emotional beat is part of the organism.  No perfect dividing line exists between good and bad cinema, but certainly one of them is unity.

Here’s what I mean.  ‘The King’s Speech’ appears simple because its emotional center never sways, always developing the central character in direct and indirect ways, examining him from every angle; character, culture, criticisms, and whatever is necessary.  If you said, “It’s a film about British monarchy in the early days of World War II”, you would be partly correct.  In a strictly dramatic sense, the only reason the British monarchy is in this story about a king is that it reveals something about his character, a vital part of his emotional journey.  Even saying, “It’s about speech therapy“, is not completely on the mark.

There’s a tool you’ve probably heard of that storytellers use to help isolate the kernel of emotional truth behind a good story.  This is a premise.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, just dramatically sufficient.  Consider this version of the premise from IMDB:  “The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.” If in some way any moment of the film diverts from this premise, there’s something wrong.  You’ll notice.  Compromising unity is like breaking a bone.  It makes forward movement awkward at best.   Again, I quote Stanley Kubrick, “A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction.  It should be a progression of moods and feelings.  The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” Filmmaking is not like writing a novel, designing a video game, or painting, well, a painting.  They all have things in common, to be sure, but in effect film is music evolved.

Okay, now that I’ve rattled off my usual cool, detached analysis, here’s a little specificity.  I loved, perhaps most of all, the familial element.  Despite a distinctly tragic backdrop — both personally for George VI and culturally — it felt warm.  Human.  Relatable.  Whimsical, maybe.  I had this big silly grin on my face for most of its running time; that is, when the filmmakers weren’t yanking the tears out of my ducts.  Partially it was from the clear, classical craftsmanship, but mostly it came from the performances.  If Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush get Oscars, they deserve them.  Unsung, I feel, is Guy Pearce as Edward VIII.  I didn’t realize it was him until the theater lights came on.  And I mustn’t forget Helena Bonham Carter!  She’s the picture’s backbone.

I love this film.  As a resonant, accessible story (forget the swearing!) and clever cinema, it’s not only Oscar-worthy, it’s classic.

Classic Review: The Trial (1962)

Stars: ★★★★

Summary:  A deep, brilliant classic and a potent humanistic antidote to exploitative horror films.


Review:  I have a bit of a beef with horror as a cinematic genre.  It’s typically immature at best and outright revolting at worst, with some blessed exceptions.  Like run-of-the-mill, thoughtless action films, there’s a noticeable separation between the filmmakers and the ethical subtleties of the material; it’s not so much about telling a story as it is about extravagance and extremes, which demands a pushed envelope with every new film.  The filmmakers shrug off concerns about content in favor of impact and, of course, money.  It’s why the standard Hollywood horror film of today continues to devolve into aptly named “torture porn“, the final expression of exploitative ethics.

Now what does this rant have to do with Orson Welles’ under-appreciated masterpiece ‘The Trial’?  In short, this adaptation of Franz Kafka‘s novel is the antithesis of torture porn.  What that degraded form of horror says about the human condition, ‘The Trial’ says the opposite.  And yes, ‘The Trial’ is fundamentally a horror picture, at least in my opinion.  It is surrealistic, nightmarish and psychologically potent.  I had a similar gut reaction when I saw ‘Night Of The Living Dead’.  It is unique, which is more than I can say for most films.  Even today, after over forty years of film history have gone by, it’s only aged like a fine wine, becoming a richer and more profound experience that’s quite difficult to replicate.  Orson Welles’ direction is superb, as per his rep, and it’s packed with fine performances, particularly that of Anthony Perkins in the lead role.

And now, to explore the film’s story, I’ll continue my initial critique.  So what is torture porn’s — and by extension most postmodern horror’s — philosophy?  It’s the withering of human dignity in the face of unspeakable evil, usually embodied in one or a few figures.  It’s utterly vampiric, destroying souls and bodies in the quest for pleasure by the monster at a given film’s center, vicariously experienced — and here’s the real horror — by the audience.  We’re taught to identify with the vicars of decay.  Now, in the other corner is the ‘The Trial’, combining Kafka’s and Welles’ ideas, and its philosophy is the exact opposite.  The lone figure with whom we identify in this universally human nightmare is Josef K., the man accused of an unknown crime, a man who may not be innocent but is sure he is not guilty.  He is an avatar of our consciousness in a lucid dream, running from monsters masked by the faces of lawyers and little girls.  ‘The Trial’ is our subconscious rebellion against the weight of an impersonal cosmic law that offers no explanations and no access to its logic.  Pointedly, the antagonist is the very Advocate assigned to defend Josef.

So in what direct way is ‘The Trial’ opposed to torture porn?  The roles reverse.  The unsympathetic Court, the many, torments Josef K., the one, but he resists them to the last with unapologetic, humanistic ferocity.  ‘The Trial’ is bleak, but instructive, giving meaning to our nightmares upon waking.  We know what the monsters are — original sin manifested — and it equips us with self-knowledge to destroy them.  Torture porn, however, seeks to empower us at the cost of our empathy.  There’s no instruction, no moment of waking from that nightmare.  The films dehumanize the many victims and moralize the one monster’s actions, making it possible for warped minds to sympathize with it.  Vicariously, we become the monster.

But of course, ‘The Trial’ is much more than horror, and deserving of review beyond this contrast.  ‘The Trial’ has much to say about religion, law, politics, sexuality, and cinema itself.  It begs for in-depth analysis.  I plan to give it just that in due time.

Reportedly, Orson Welles considered this the best of his whole celebrated filmography.  It’s a shame that it’s been so often ignored by cinephiles and the critical community.  It’s wonderful stuff.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Stars: ★★★☆

Summary: Not the best of fantasy, but a traditional, playful, even melancholy adventure still.

Review:  The third entry in Walden Media’s adaptation of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ may, unfortunately, be the last.  This is due to diminishing box office returns, Disney’s abandonment of the franchise, and the sad fact that the movies weren’t great.  That isn’t to say that they are not good.  I like all three films in varying degrees, mostly for the impressive cast, production design, music, and source story by the inimitable C.S. Lewis, but despite being entertaining adventures, they lack that blissful hypnotism associated with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars’ that demand endless excursions into the fantasy world.

‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, despite tying the titular voyage together with a new, rather rote plot, stays mostly true to the book’s events.  The difficulty in adapting this episodic story into a movie is that, as Stanley Kubrick observed, “A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction.”  Considering that several of Kubrick’s films were literary adaptations, it doesn’t mean that a story like ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ should not or cannot be filmed, but rather that the focus should be on the repeating themes and narrative melodies at play.  Thankfully, the filmmakers obviously understood this and plucked the proper notes, retaining the thoughtful, playful, even melancholy tone of the source material in a suitably cinematic way.  I always thought that ‘Dawn Treader’ was rather sad.  It is the last Narnian Chronicle with the Pevensie children in a lead role, as they grow wise from their adventures and the Christlike Aslan informs them that they won’t return.  It’s an end to childhood.  This makes for a rather fitting end for the Walden Media series, if technically premature, as there are two books left to go.  Still, it is satisfying to know that we got to see the Pevensies complete their Narnian tenure.

What ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ lacks, I already mentioned above: Blissful hypnotism.  While the characters express a longing to return in each installment, we don’t necessarily hear the call.  The trouble is, while the stories are good, the setting is simple like a fable or fairy tale and doesn’t have the richness and complexity of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.  Peter Jackson’s adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ perfectly captured Middle-Earth so to as convince us that such a world may exist.  Light revealed earthy wonders, and shadows concealed things unimaginable.  While Lewis’ ‘Chronicles’ are children’s books and don’t burden the reader with details, the filmmakers had the chance to enrich Narnia and generally muffed it.  When the Pevensies became royalty, it was believable in a sort of storybook way, but without a picture of what great things they wrought in their time, it felt awkward instead of wondrous.  When the Dawn Treader sails beyond Narnia, there should be a solidity to the realm that lends contrast to the proceedings and thusly greater adventure.

Complaints aside, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ is an entertaining, whimsical, accessible journey that plays like a ’40s serial, with debts owed to Michael Curtiz pirate pictures, Ray Harryhausen monster movies, and even a moment or two from ‘Ghostbusters’.  The best sequence is the climax, an excellent battle with a scary, demonic sea serpent summoned from Edmund’s nightmares.  It was fun to watch a sea serpent and an English boy-turned-dragon do battle above a ship populated by minotaurs, dwarfs, fauns, and the occasional child royal.

In total, ‘Dawn Treader’ isn’t at the head of the pack, but it isn’t a waste of time at all, especially if you’ve seen and enjoyed the previous two entries and the novels which inspired them.

Classic Review: A Clockwork Orange

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars: ★★★★

Summary: Cruel, vulgar, prophetic, ugly, and yet strangely beautiful at the same time.

Review: A Clockwork Orange was Stanley Kubrick’s follow up to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, and it is every bit that film’s antithesis. ‘2001’ was fantastic and altruistic; ‘Clockwork’ is gritty and bleak. ‘2001’ shows the human race’s potential, ‘Clockwork’ shows its reality. It’s a study of the ever present savagery and barbarism in our world; a strange, sad film, lacking in any obvious optimism. Thanks to Kubrick’s master craft, though, it’s also one of the best films of its time.

The movie takes place in a totalitarian England. Sort of totalitarian at least. That facet of the narrative isn’t really developed until the last act, but it’s worth mentioning. Anyways, though, this is a despotic world of “ultra-violence”: savage gangs of young men roam the streets at night, beating, robbing, and raping. One of the leaders of these gangs is Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the most twisted and despicable of them all. Long before Heath Ledger’s Joker terrorized for the sake of terror, Alex was causing his own self-satisfying chaos. He shows no remorse; laughing as he maims the defenseless, singing as he rapes women, and grinning malevolently as he even abuses his own gang members (“droogs” as they are called in the film). He’s truly an awful, awful human being. And yet, there’s this other side to him.

You see, Alex loves Beethoven. He absolutely adores his music, particularly Beethoven’s 9th symphony (the music of which is used for much of the film’s score) and listens to it frequently. In general, he also has a great appreciation for art. That and he’s a gifted speaker. His voiceover narrations throughout the film are given in Nasdat, an unorthodox English-dialect that is surprisingly eloquent, even as it describes his vulgar pass times. In Alex is a strange paradox: For as absolutely savage as he is, he seems equally cultured.

Eventually the law catches up to Alex and he is sent to prison, where he volunteers for an experimental new treatment for rehabilitating prisoners, a treatment that will cut his sentence short considerably. This turns out very disturbing, as Alex is conditioned to become painfully ill at even the thought of committing violence to others. As an unexpected side effect, he also becomes painfully ill whenever he hears Beethoven’s 9th. As the price of losing his savagery, he has also lost much of his culture. He returns to face a world that’s as cruel as he used to be, only now he cannot defend himself due to his treatment. In a bizarre twist, we find ourselves pitying him as he becomes the victim in life.

At its core, this film is a parable on choice. As a priest directly points out in the film, Alex has been denied free will through his treatment. He is compelled to do good only to avoid pain, not because he sees the evil inherent in his old ways. It’s left him weak and vulnerable and has cost him his humanity. He’s also lost his precious Beethoven in the process, and he no longer speaks in Nasdat as often. Taking away his choice has, in effect, killed the beauty along with the beast.

Kubrick’s message is clear: Those who are incapable of doing real evil are also incapable of doing real good. Free will ultimately means that there will always be evil in this world. It’s sad but it’s true. So long as free will exists there will be war and poverty and violence and rape starvation. But without free will, there is also no beauty, no love, no sacrifice, no charity, and most importantly, no hope. In short, there is no good. Alex’s old life was hateful and ugly, but his new one is something much worse, it is hopeless and despairing. So too are we without free choice.

Lightning struck many times for Stanley Kubrick, but I don’t think it ever did so quite as enigmatically as it did for this film. It’s a wonderfully stylistic picture with a very powerful message, and for this reason it rivals ‘2001’ as his most prolific work. However, this film isn’t for everyone. It’s practically saturated with violence and nudity. It has to be. But for that reason this isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s mature subject matter for mature minds. For those who can handle the intensity, it’s a riveting and stimulating picture that offers a bold message to the viewer. It’s one of the best films Kubrick ever made, and in my opinion, one of the best films of all time. If you think you can handle it, it’s worth your time.

Classic Review: The Shining

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars: ★★★☆

Summary: Shockingly effective, if not always horrifying.

Review:  Very strange things take place in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’; and it’s certainly extreme in its depiction of isolation-induced insanity, its suspenseful build-up, and its violent and graphic imagery.  But I’m just not sure if any of it was really frightening.

A young couple agrees to spend the winter caretaking a remote hotel hidden deep within the mountains.  For husband Jack (Jack Nicholson), a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic, this seems a perfect place to work on his new novel, with plenty of solitude and time on his hands.  As the winter settles in, however, he begins acting strangely towards his wife (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd), and it seems he is cracking under cabin fever.  Not only that, but it seems the hotel itself, scarred by a violent and dark past, is calling out to him, sending him twisted visions and messages.  Danny, who possesses a unique telepathic gift called “Shining”, is also receiving strange, horrific visions.  It’s only a matter of time before both the elements and the supernatural push these people to their breaking point.

That’s the gist of the story, but while watching the movie it’s rather difficult to figure out what exactly is going on.  Because of the dual ideas of dementia and paranormal activity, the film has a way of confusing the audience, making them wonder what’s real and what’s imagined.  Are these people really seeing ghosts, or is it all in their heads?  Are evil spirits driving Jack, or has he just snapped under the isolation?  They are interesting questions that are, unfortunately, left unanswered.  Granted, such ambiguity is a trademark of director Stanley Kubrick, so I suppose I can’t be all that surprised.

This is, of course, one of only thirteen films made by Stanley Kubrick in his lifetime, and it certainly shows Kubrick’s strong direction.  He was man of unique ideas and opinions, and they always showed through in his works.  It’s possible he had some particularly weird notions about this film.  According to Kubrick himself, any story involving ghosts was inherently “optimistic” because it seemed to promise a life after death.  In that weird sense, ‘The Shining’ is a hopeful, arguably religious experience.  Do I really think this film is optimistic?  No, the idea of “optimism” in a film about evil spirits, simply because they imply eternal life, is a sad irony, and I doubt Kubrick was going for that.

There’s a lot in this movie that’s gruesome and mysterious.  It has a spine-chilling score and weird cinematography at times.  Nicholson gives a truly creepy performance as Jack grows ever more deranged.  It all should be scary, but I just didn’t think it was.  It’s not that I was bored or uninvolved; I just wasn’t terrified.  Something about the film didn’t tie all the elements together.  Granted, there were some very shocking moments, and the idea of the film certainly has great potential, but the overall story didn’t scare me the way it should have.  Things felt too distant.  The characters were strange and far away to me.  I guess I wasn’t as involved with them as I was with mysteries of the hotel they were in, and it’s hard to feel afraid for characters you don’t feel much for.

Even if it’s not particularly scary overall, this is still a solid, suspenseful, and very entertaining film.  A strong story (based on Stephen King’s original novel) with unique camera work and music, coupled with really great work on Nicholson’s end, make it a classic in my book.  One watch will promise at least a few shocking moments, and you might just find yourself surprisingly engaged in the story, even if you have no problems going to bed that night.