Director: Stanley Kubrick
“Like all masterpieces, The Shining transcends its status as a literary adaptation to become not only vintage Kubrick – with spectacular ariel shots, a breathtaking and symbolic use of color, and recurrent mirror and labyrinth imagery, all enhanced by a memorable music score and Ray Walker’s unforgettable production design – but a classic of modern horror cinema.” (660, Roumiana Deltcheva, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
Now I confess this was the first time that I ever saw The Shining – I know, I know, don’t judge me. However I did know all the main images due to their iconic status. It was interesting to finally see the narrative that links up the images like the elevator of blood, the scary twin girls and of course Redrum.
Shelley DuVall left me a bit indifferent I must say. While she is the last to succumb to the malevolent spirits she does seem to spend a lot of time floating ineffectually around. She kind of reminded me of a Tim Burton character with her elongated features ad sunken, darkened eyes.
“The film is dark, disturbing, and claustrophobic.” (660) Jack Nicholson is once again outstanding as Jack Torrance. He clearly has a knack for playing slightly mental characters exceptionally well – you only have to look at his performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1975) and Batman (Tim Burton, 1989) for the evidence. His performance is an evolution of crazy – beginning with little subtle ticks to a full-blown homicidal maniac – which makes his character one of the most interesting horror baddies to watch. The majority of your horror killer are already fully formed homicidal maniacs like Michael Myers (Halloween, John Carpenter, 1978) or Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven, 1984). I found Jack Torrance was still quite a charismatic and likable character and immensely watchable.
For me whenever you have children in a leading role in a horror film it adds another of what I so eloquently term “creep factor”. And that’s certainly true here. The twin girls are terrifying with their innocent insistence that Danny come and play. Danny Lloyd is actually pretty good and convincing. Tony, the person who lives in his mouth, is quite disturbing and adds another dimension to this young actor’s performance. I liked that he was a clever kid as well rather than running around like a headless chicken. I mean he had enough sense to cover his tracks, quite literally due to the snow, when running away from his own father, hellbent on killing him.
As with all Kubrick films there is an extremely strong visual style to The Shining. “Carefully selecting his camera angles and rhythms, he draws us into fear.” (660) The colors are vivid and still very much of the 1970s with brown, orange and red prominent among them. There is most definitely a labyrinthine feel to the film and not just in the exquisite maze in the hotel grounds. The hotel itself is a maze of corridors lending a disorienting air to the already heavily isolated setting. Kubrick’s use of tracking shots creates a sense of claustrophobia due to the tight framing. They also add to the growing sense of doom. “Kubrick demonstrates his mastery of the art, creating an atmosphere of great dread.” (660) He very effectively situates the viewer in a voyeuristic position – we become a spirit stalking their prey, always following behind.
I can’t believe that it took me this long to actually get around to watching The Shining. It has now become a fast favorite of mine and is one of the more intriguing horror films I have watched recently (and I seem to have watched a lot of them).