The Shining – Classic scares from Kubrick and co.

First, a little confession: I have never watched The Shining before. It’s one of those films that is so in the public consciousness that I always felt like I HAD seen it (from numerous parodies, copycats, etc.). So when the chance came up to see a re-released version with extra footage a few months ago (I know I am ridiculously late in posting this, sorry) I jumped at it.

The film, written (along with Diane Johnson) and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is based on a novel by Stephen King of the same name. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is hired as caretaker for the Overlook Hotel while it closes at the end of season, taking his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) with him to spend the long winter months there. Tales of the previous caretaker going mad don’t seem to bother Jack. But there seems to be other ghostly goings-on that their telepathic son can pick up on…

Despite The Shining being 32 years old (it was released in 1980), the chills still resonate throughout. This is a scary film, not just because of the unexpected jolts and jumps, but because of a slow build-up of ominous tension throughout. Storylines that could seem silly and cheap are handled well by Kubrick. For instance the idea that their son Danny has a psychic ability (or as the chef played by Scatman Crothers says, has the ‘shining’) is written and directed in such a way that it immediately seems credible, as do the other events in the film. Kubrick’s direction is also astounding, using long takes with fluid camera work, making the hotel seem labyrinth-like and all the more adding to the notion that the characters are trapped there.

Jack Nicholson’s performance hasn’t lost its charm over the years either. He is terrifying to watch, his slow descent into madness perfectly reflected on his face as we literally watch him struggle to keep himself together. His OTT acting makes it incredibly comedic as well, something that you don’t expect from a chilling horror story. Shelley Duvall by comparison is somewhat wooden for earlier scenes in which she plays the doting wife and mother. However it is later on when she shows what she can really do, playing terrified lady struggling for survival to perfection. A surprise for me was also the young Danny Lloyd who is brilliantly convincing as their son, making you genuinely concerned about his plight as well.

The Shining could have just been another run-of-the-mill horror with a rather silly story in parts. Instead director Stanley Kubrick made a psychological tale of a man coping (or not coping) with his inability to create and his own intense isolation. Jack Nicholson’s performance makes this movie more than worthwhile to watch anytime. And the mounting sense of terror throughout makes it one of the scariest films of all time. A classic, and can’t believe I hadn’t seen it until now.


~ by square-eyed-geek on January 7, 2013.

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