By Nathan Peterson
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
Ok, so maybe I am a little late to the party on this one. As a younger movie viewer, The Shining never really appealed to me. Whilst I could have easily placed the “Here’s Johnny!” quote, I hardly knew anything about the film and as such naturally avoided it. In more recent years, the amount of films I watch has increased exponentially, and unfortunately it has taken me a little longer to view The Shining than I had hoped. All this was rectified a few days ago, however, and boy am I pleased it was.
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story follows Jack Torrance and his family as they become the winter caretakers of a hotel. Somewhat cut off from society in the large and dominating hotel, trouble starts to brew when Jack, a frustrated author, starts to lose his mind, helped by the charming ghosts in the hotel, whilst his son Danny, who shows a tendency for clairvoyance, experiences some of the tragedy that has happened in the hotel and having visions of some of the events that would unfold.
I can say without any doubt it is one of the best horror films I have ever seen, and easily the best Stephen King adaptation outside of The Shawshank Redemption.
Firstly, the performances are all really strong. Duvall plays the slightly naive wife well, and her moments of terror are very convincing. In fact, she has a face that seems built for this kind of role as she naturally looks confused and inquisitive without trying. Danny Lloyd also has some great scenes as the clairvoyant son, and in particular his “Red Rum” voice is amongst one of the creepiest moments in horror. But, let’s be honest this film is about Jack.
Jack Nicholson is a guy I have a alot of respect for and he has played some great roles in his career, but this could be his most memorable. Although he starts a little slowly, once the hotel starts to take a hold of him his portrayal of a man losing his mind is both enjoyable and frightening. The scene where Duvall discovers just how far Jack’s mental state has slipped and is confronted by him in his “study” contains moments of subtlety and over the top craziness, but the contrast is so perfectly fitting for the film.
I have had difficulty enjoying Stanley Kubrick’s work in the past, but I think he directs this perfectly. Released in 1980, but retaining the feel of a 1970’s film, Kubrick sets out to make a visually striking horror and achieves this brilliantly. Through his direction, he gives added weight to the hotel, almost making it an extra member of the cast.
Speaking of the hotel, it truly is set in a beautiful part of the world, and is a stunning piece of architecture, but nonetheless it is terrifying in its own right, even without the prospect of being haunted and hosting mass murders. Given the opportunity to spend a winter there alone, I think I would have to decline!
My only criticism is the ending. Whilst it wraps up the family’s story pretty well, the final scene is a little confusing and could have had a bit more explanation. Having not read the book yet, I don’t know who this negative should be aimed at, Kubrick or King, but it is something that just left me asking unnecessary questions.
I could also question how necessary Scatman Crothers character is, however I think I will leave that alone until I have read the book. He may very well be an important character that was handled badly in the film.
Overall The Shining is the perfect example of how a film can be scary without having things jumping out all the time, and for it to still be enjoyed over 30 years later, even to first time watchers like me, is truly commendable. May The Shining’s light never darken.
Rating: 4 out of 5