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01 November 2011

The Shining (1980) [Horror Marathon] 35#

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Stephen King’s horror novel “The Shining” may differ from this eerie adaption, but the film is something very special. Exploring insanity and going psycho, “The Shining” is a very thrilling and unforgettable. Stanley Kubrick, the genre explorer did an excellent job with this film using a variety of fresh camera angles, editing and even effects. When watching the film, it may confuse you at times and I believe it the real goal of it. You will pick up quickly what is happening and it will take you on one big thrill ride.

With wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd) in tow, frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker at the opulently ominous, mountain-locked Overlook Hotel so that he can write in peace. Before the Overlook is vacated for the Torrances, the manager (Barry Nelson) informs Jack that a previous caretaker went crazy and slaughtered his family; Jack thinks it's no problem, but Danny's "shining" hints otherwise. Not long after, Danny’s psychic ability becomes a problem and we spiral down into madness. 

On the most part, the film is exciting and full of tension not because it is a man wanting to kill people, but because of how it explores insanity, and who better to play this part than Jack Nicholson?  The story will have you thrilled, often confused and often sitting on the edge of your seat. It is an eerier horror film not filled with gore and slashing, but more of a Hitchcockian approach; by that, I mean suspense. 

Four years prior to this film Nicholson starred in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, here we see that role doubled in talent and madness. This is one of the best roles I have seen Nicholson in because of how well he done it. His expressions, tones and gestures all sum up to a crazy and insane character that has lost their mind. Aside Nicholson is the wonderful Shelley Duvall. Often pressured in her role, she managed to pull off a splendid role that is filled with fear and fright by the end of the film. Although she was nominated for a razzie award for worst actress, I give her credit for her strenuous efforts as the last nine months of her time on the film featured upset moments and crying and was not given much attention in the film; as she put it, “The reviews were all about Kubrick, like I wasn't there.".
Little Danny Lloyd was cute, adorable but also quite terrifying when it comes to the point of repeating the word “redrum”, which we easily learn is ‘murder’ backwards. We also won’t forget his foaming at the mouth and jittering his head in a creepy and frightening manner. Lloyd is a great child actor here and is more a main character than realised. Danny controls a lot in the film and ha the titular ability. The ability to “shine” that is explained when watching.

One thing I noticed in the film was the music that often crept in. It is hard to explain how it goes but it was sort of all over the place with little noises as if someone were plucking strings. At the same time, it sounded digital. It was rather unique and must have been influential because I have seen later films use similar kind of sounds. I hope you know what music I am talking of. Anyway, the music overall was terrific I the film and gave more edge to the film.

I have not read the novel so I cannot say how good it was put on to the screen. I will say however, the source material must have been bright, so thank Stephen King for that part. However, Kubrick’s talented screenwriting, producing and directing makes the creative brilliance of the film, alongside the actors. Nicholson and Duvall reflect on Kubrick’s direction, which gives you a divine result on screen.

What is fascinating is how complex the films narrative is at times. Kubrick does not dumb down the story and I think the complexity adds to the whole idea of the film- being driven to insanity. The story is fine to follow but at times will have you question what is going on. One scene has Jack wandering in to room '237' and being confronted by a woman in a bath. The confusing part of this scene is Jack seems to see a beautiful woman, but he sees in the mirror she is an elderly woman (and quite diseased looking too). We swap between her walking towards Jack and what appears as a flashback of what Danny say of the woman floating out of the water. It is an example of a scene that can be dissected from this film with it's complex and deep narrative.

The story itself is captivating because as I said, it explores insanity, and what better way to do it than feature solitude and isolation. In their stay at the hotel, all alone, things seem nice but quite quickly things begin to get unnerving. The great thing about this is it reinforces insanity, and I think that is the biggest appeal of the film. Kubrick as we know was an exploring filmmaker and you can see why he chose to make this film. So as we spiral own insanity lane, isolation and entrapment become the film’s narrative tools. 

Kubrick’s touch of style definitely applies here and I will always know him for how he edits his films. Fast cuts, jump cuts, simplistic intertitles and so on. The editing here was slick and that is all there is to say about that. The effects were very interesting and the amazing camera movement achieved was great, as well as some interesting camera angles. One great shot was the tracking shot that follows Danny on his tricycle.  As for special effects, one scene (that is now renowned) is very interesting indeed. It is the scene with the elevator doors open and what appears to be blood crashes down. It is strange, memorable and unique to the film.

So is the film terrifying? In some ways it certainly is. Although not full-blown horror, the eerie and crazy build up the film has given the film a unique presence. The idea of a man going after his family with an axe is a more realistic kind of fear because it is more probable to happen in reality.  In addition, how can we forget the famous scene of Jack breaking through the door, peaking in and saying, “Here’s Johnny!” That one clip is famous and has been spoofed/parodied in later films. To wrap up “The Shining” it is a story that will most certainly not disappoint. It will bring several questions to you on viewing and will thrill (and possibly scare) you and stay in your memory in some way with Kubrick’s unique construction, which makes it worthy of its status.

My Rating: 9/10


  1. Brilliant review Thomas, Nicholson in my opinion is the most talented (not my favorite though) actor in history. Unfortunately, I have not seen this :( But hey, next chance you get drop by my blog sometime!

  2. Thanks Nicholson is one of my favourites too.

  3. one of the greatest horror films I have ever seen, and the very first Stanley Kubrick film I ever saw, Brilliant review Thomas, glad to hear you liked it. Now that Octobers gone, perhaps you'll move on from horror for a while

  4. One of my favorite films of all-time and THE best horror film of all-time. Great review.

  5. its is a terrific film and yes, no more horror for a while. I shall watch a few animated films.

  6. glad you love it, it's in my top 5.

  7. Not sure about this one. Great review though!



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