I honestly don’t know where to begin when it comes to talking about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining. Do I talk about how it’s my #1 favorite horror film of ALL TIME? Or how ridiculously brilliant Kubrick was, and is and forever will be one of my biggest idols and influences? Do I talk about how much Stephen King absolutely loathes the film? How about I just tell you a little about the film, and move on from there?
Jack Torrance (ex-teacher turned struggling writer, played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson) has been put in charge of being the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel which becomes completely snowed in during the winter months. Even though he’s aware of a previous caretaker that murdered his family in the Hotel, Jack takes his wife (Shelly Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) to the Overlook and begin preparations for the winter ahead. There they meet Dick Halloran (Scatman “Hong Kong Phooey” Crothers) who takes an instant liking to the family, and quickly learns that Jack’s son Danny has “The Shine”, and begins to have visions of terrible things that have taken place in the Overlook. Jack slowly descends toward insanity and begins having visions of his own, he begins talking to ghosts, and even Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker that killed his family…or is it just the Hotel’s evil manifesting into someone? Either way, at this point, this is where the terror begins. I’ll just break it down in a nutshell.
- ROOM 247
- The Grady Twins
- Sexy naked lady in a bathtub that becomes rotted, cackling, terrifying old lady (the scariest part of the movie for me, and still gives me chills)
- More Ghosts
- Baseball Bat-Fu
- Here’s Johnny
- Axe to the chest
- Hedge Maze-Fu
The Overlook Hotel is a fully realized character – all long corridors and hauntingly sterile interiors. As a film lover, you can spend all day traveling through hallways with Danny on his Big Wheel (so amazingly captured with the then pioneered Steadicam technology, freeing the cameraman to move without the handshake) or hanging out with Jack as he has a bourbon with bartender “Lloyd”, and the ghosts of the hotel in the Overlooks’ breathtaking Gold Room.
The Shining almost requires a few repeated viewings for film lovers to realize just how TECHNICALLY brilliant, and bloody scary, it is! For years I have watched the film just as a good horror movie; but now as I have gotten older, and become a filmmaker, I can watch the film with new eyes, sitting in awe at all of the amazing craftsmanship that went into the production.
Kubrick’s use of camera angles and lenses add to the sense of dread around every corner, with a sharp musical score that also heightens the thrill and shock moments when they come.
Perhaps though, more than anything, it is the films unique feel that has been part of its endurance in the face of modern slasher horrors of today.
And before I leave on that note, let me throw in one more little tidbit.
Ya know how I said Stephen King hated the film? Well, he openly stated his displeasure of the film while it was IN production to Stanley Kubrick, himself.
How did Kubrick handle it? Well, in King’s novel, the Torrance family arrive at the Overlook in a red VW Beetle. In the film it’s a yellow Beetle…but later, when Dick Halloran rushes to try to save the family, he notices a wreck on the side of the road…a red VW Beetle met it’s by way of a tractor trailer.
If you ask me, that too, among many things in the film, is brilliant.