Among the films based on the work of Stephen King, this one bears special note. No avid Horror movie fan has NOT seen Stanley Kubrick’s “the Shining”. It is a classic. It has a lot of reasons for being called such too. It has a style that is unlike anyone else’s work other than Kubrick. It has a wonderful cuts and edits that I personally find startling – which works exceedingly well with a good old fashioned ghost story. The wide angle shots of hallways in this film truly haunt me, and I can’t think of another movie off the top of my head that uses these so well. But how it was shot is only one of the many reasons for this film’s “classic” status.
Primarily, this film is about a haunted hotel and a caretaker that will be looking after it for 5 long months during the winter season. Combining cabin fever with a haunted hotel is a deliriously wicked combination! Who could have been better at going crazy than Jack Nicholson? His portrayal of Jack Torrance, the main character is creepy in that it is SO believable. This role, above all of his other great ones, makes you question if Nicholson is truly mad. As for his counterparts, the heinous-looking Shelley Duvall and the very young Danny Lloyd, the boy can out-act Duvall. Danny is a frightening in his shocked expressions and his “Tony” voice. Duvall on the other hand looks like she’s reading from the script, according to my lovely wife. I agree.
There are some stellar lines in “The Shining” as well. I’m sorry, but little Danny saying “Danny isn’t here Mrs. Torrance” still creeps me out! Of course, there’s the famous “Redrum. Redrum. Redrum! REDRUM!!!” line. And then there’s this gem: “I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.” Most of the value in such great lines is in their delivery and Nicholson’s unhinged madness creeps into his voice quite a lot in this film. It makes the lines truly disturbing. This separates this film from the bulk of other Horror films; it has a lasting disturbing quality.
I suppose one of the only lacking elements of this film is that you may not understand it all, given that a whole chunk of the story itself is NOT in the film. There is one scene in the movie to explain why the film is called “the Shining”. The “shining” is referencing telepathic abilities, or clairsentience (depending how thorough your understanding of the paranormal is). Danny has it, and the cook of the Overlook Hotel (named Halloran) has it. That’s at least explained in the film, but nothing is explained about room #237 (actually supposed to be #217) or the ballroom. If you have the read the book, or seen the TV Mini-series “Stephen King’s The Shining” (1997), you will grasp a far larger chunk of the story. Once you realize that they are tons of ghosts in the Overlook (and none of them are Casper-like), things become a lot more terrifying. You could say that Kubrick “presented his version of the story”. Regardless, the story can confuse some.
A lot of folks have given “The Shining” a positive review in the last several years, when they lambasted it back when the film was originally released. The perception among many film connoisseurs is that this is a truly “effective” Horror film. Stephen King hated the movie when it was 1st filmed and said that Kubrick thought too much and felt too little. I don’t really care about all of that. I can say this: the film is creepy. The soundtrack bothers me, but in a good kind of a way. The look of sheer terror on Danny Lloyd’s face as he stares at the ghosts of the 2 little girls as they deliver the ultimate sinister line: “Come play with us, Danny. Play with us forever.” THAT is what makes “The Shining” a classic. It isn’t just Jack’s maniacal giggle. It isn’t just the creepy hotel (which was actually just a soundstage) or the wide-angled shots. It isn’t that awesome hedge maze. It isn’t just the sudden cuts to “TUESDAY” or “8 AM”. Roll it all together and you have cold, frightening film, tinged with madness and haunted by the vast openness of its setting.
“The Shining” is TRULY an effective Horror film and I have thought so since I 1st saw it some 25 years ago. Welcome in Halloween with this film and you will never walk in a hotel hallway the same way ever again. You’ll be expecting to see those 2 girls in their blue dresses around the next corner – or maybe you’ll see elevator doors opening and think of all that blood washing into the corridor. I highly recommend “the Shining”!
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.
- Top 10 Films of the 1980s (dudeabides1.wordpress.com)
- The Shining – A Review (cinemaniahub.wordpress.com)
- “The Shining” (1980) (littlehouseofgiallo.wordpress.com)
- The Shining (myoldaddiction2.wordpress.com)
- “Shining” time (somecamerunning.typepad.com)