Dir: Stanley Kubrick, 1980
A masterpiece of horror or trampling of a much-loved classic?
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer and former alcoholic hired as a temporary caretaker at The Overlook Hotel during the winter months as the hotel becomes snowed in.
Torrance, his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) move into the hotel for the next 6-7 months, with Jack using the opportunity to write.
Before the move, however, Danny has a premonition about something bad happening. Danny is psychic and has an imaginary friend in his finger that he names Tony.
On being given the job, Torrance is informed by the hotel manager that the previous caretaker, Grady, went mad as a result of the isolation and killed his family and them himself.
Arriving at the hotel, the family are introduced to the hotel’s cook, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers).
Hallorann takes Danny away for some ice cream and talks to him about being psychic, known as “the shining”.
Over the following months, both Jack and Danny see and interact with the ghosts of the hotel, and Grady’s victims.
Slowly, Jack becomes enveloped by the hotel and its permanent “guests” and begins to go insane, attempting to kill his family in the process.
Out of all the Stanley Kubrick films, this has got to be his best, followed by A Clockwork Orange.
The Shining is the perfect horror film. This should be the standard that all other horrors aspire to be.
Horror films are, by and large, rehashes of other horrors.
The mixture is always the same; have a fit girl, lots of blood and unrelenting violence. Kubrick did away with all that and wisely so.
Horror always works best when it’s psychological. This has the benefit of luring the audience into an unknown place causing fear and anxiety.
Stanley Kubrick was, and is, one of the best directors who ever lived, if not THE best.
Torrance’s descent into madness is a slow journey but not one that is painful. Often, slow films can be a chore but this master knows exactly what he’s doing.
The director very, very slowly builds the tension up until it has nowhere to go but crashing down along with Jack’s sanity.
Seriously, I can’t gush about this film enough. I love every second of it.
Nicholson is as famous for his eyes with that devil look as he is for his acting and they have never been put to better use than in this.
Winning an Oscar for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, critics often regard it as his best film or his turn as The Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman as the mot memorable.
No way. Not by a long shot.
This, The Shining, is his best work. As good as he was in Cuckoo’s Nest nobody could have played Jack Torrance in such a superb and pitch-perfect way.
Stephen King himself adapted his novel for a television mini-series and followed the book very closely but it had none of the tension or dreaded sense of foreboding that Kubrick could muster.
The original novel was very supernatural in that the hotel had a garden with bushes shaped into animals. These bushes then come alive and attack the family.
Stanley Kubrick focuses more on the loss of sanity caused by the ghosts and uses them to bolster the unreal and otherworldly feel with creepy results.
Anybody who is ever thinking about making a horror film MUST watch this. It’s the only lesson you’ll ever need.
To cause a sense of unease, Kubrick frequently changed the background of many shots causing continuity errors, all deliberately and to great success.
Personally designing the hotel’s maze and interior, the director made a point of making the rooms impossible to enter or exist, again causing unease, debate and an eerie quality.
Following the map of the maze, it is clear that it doesn’t represent the physical maze itself and is impossible to get out of. This was all intentional.
Stanley had a habit of junking the material that he felt he didn’t need and several of his films were released in different countries with varying degrees of length.
The European release was shorn of around six minutes as opposed to the US one. The missing footage highlight more clearly Danny’s burgeoning ability and an accident with Jack.
Alas, all the other footage he shot is believed to be lost or, more likely, destroyed.
A well-known scene, of which a still exists, has Wendy in the hospital after the attack and being informed that there is no trace of Jack’s body.
Maybe this scene could have shed more light on to the film’s ambiguous ending but, sadly, we’ll never really know.
But let us take joy in what the Master has left us with and a quote imitated for all eternity…”Here’s Johnny!”