The movie starts out as if it is going to be about the psychic powers of a little boy with an imaginary playmate named Tony nesting in his mouth and transmitting messages to him through his index finger. Before long, however, an irreversible shift from the boy's powers gets underway as Jack Nicholson, the boy's father, begins hogging the limelight, hamming up a mental breakdown, and mingling in the society of ghosts at a Gilded Age resort hotel. Stanley Kubrick dawdles so long in his deliberately banal, slice-of-life dialogue and so long in appreciating his capital assets (the ornate hotel, a garden maze styled after the one in Laurel and Hardy's A Chump at Oxford, tons of studio-manufactured snow that doesn't look much like snow but at least looks like a pretty penny — and particularly one spectacular set-up of a snowdrift that climbs two stories high and conveniently comes to a peak directly beneath the window through which somebody happens to need to escape) that the horror potential shrivels up and dies. And there is no reviving it at the climax by having a madman chase after his wife and child with an axe, limping like the Igor character out of Frankenstein movies. The easy mistake to be made about this movie is to conclude that the material must not have been worthy of Kubrick. The truth is vice versa. With Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd. (1980) — Duncan Shepherd
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