Horror Month Review: The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay By: Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Run Time: 146 Minutes
Rating: R

Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a masterpiece of suspense and tension. Even when nothing remotely frighting is happening, the tension and build up never allows you to feel comfortable or safe. Kubrick truly was a master film maker, and “The Shining”. What makes the film so good? Read on an find out.
The film starts as a man named drives towards the Overlook Hotel, the main location of the film. Right away we get a fantastic glimpse of what makes this move so effective. Literally nothing is happening. We don’t know who any one is or where the driver is heading. The scene is just three minutes or so of a car driving as the credits role and the horror theme plays. But all the shots and the music that accompany them really hammer home the fact that this is an isolated spot. There s no other traffic to speck of, and the only other cars we do see are going in the opposite direction. The first three minutes of this movie simply couldn’t do a better job of making you understand the isolation the main characters will be facing.
We soon learn that the person driving the car was a man named Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson),an ailing written, who is applying to be the winter care taker for the Hotel. The Hotel is a summer resort, but as it’s business year is coming to an end they someone to stay for the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze and so on. Jack agrees hoping to use the time and isolation to get get back to writing. But before he can be given the reins, the manager tells him about the last caretaker they had. The last man they had ended up killing his wife and two daughters with an ax before blowing his own head off. Jack seems somewhat unaffected by this, and even says his wife wont mind as she is a horror movie/story enthusiast. With that out of the way, Jack returns on closing day with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd).

The Overlook Hotel.

The Overlook Hotel.

It’s hear that we learn about Danny’s physic ability’s. Him and his mother are given a tour by the head chief, Dick Hallorann. Dick calls Danny “Doc.” a couple of times, with makes Wendy wonder how he could know that was what they called him on occasion. Dick tells her he must have overheard her call him that, but once him and Danny are alone together he tells the young boy the truth.
Dick’s grandmother had told him once that there were people with a “shine” to them; people who could pick up on or see things that have, are or will happen. Due to the dark history of the Hotel, this information becomes very useful, as he soon begins to see the ghost of the twins the last care taker butchered, and even hints at even darker events. Dicks final peace of advise for Danny is for him not to go into room 237.
Soon everyone is gone at it’s just Jack and his family. Almost instantly we get another couple of glimpse at how Kubrick can make a completely normal scene tense to the point of being soul crushing. The first scene is a simple one. Wendy brings Jack some breakfast in bed, and asks him if he’d like to take her on a walk latter on. All he does in reply is say that he should get some writing done. What makes this scene work is Nicholson’s acting and the way Kubrick sets up the scene. With those two things combined we understand something about Jack that is never actually spoken, but clear from this scene on: Jack doesn’t want his family there with him. He resents them for being with him.
Armed with this knowledge, the next scene, where Wendy interrupts Jack while he’s writing, and this time he actually blows up at her. And again, with Nicholson’s brilliant acting and the way Kubrick directs you just know that there is something off with Jack. Deeply, deeply psychologically wrong.

Danny and the twins

Danny and the twins

The one scene that every one knows from the movie (or, at least one of the scenes that everyone knows) is the one with Danny riding his tricycle. What makes this scene great is that there are really three scenes. Each one a prolonged, single takes that make you feel like Danny is being watched and fallowed. Because of this, once he does have his famous meeting with the twins, it’s almost a relief to know the stress of waiting for something to happen is over.
The real horror of the film doesn’t really start until Jacks second meeting with Loyd, the bartender. Before hand we’ve learned about some mishaps with Jacks parenting We also learn that Danny is trying to use his “shine” to call for help. As Jack talks with Loyd, Loyd convinces him that he should simply get rid of of his wife and son. After that, all hell breaks loss, and it is great to watch.

"Here's Johnny!"

“Here’s Johnny!”

This movie is truly just great. Everything about it is just perfect. A lot of that is owed to the cast. Jack Nicholson does some of the best acting of his career in this, and the man has never really had a “bad” role. Throughout the film you know there is something wrong with him, and once he goes into full crazy mode, it’s an impressive spectral. Shelley Duvall is also a revelation, perfecting performing the role of the loving wife caught up in events she has no control or understanding of. Danny Lloyd is one of the best child actors i’ve ever seen. It really is somewhat sad to see that he never did any real acting after this. I honestly think the man could have become one of the greats had he continued his career.
The score is also great, but it’s more in the vain of the “Silent Hill” games. None of the music would be great on it’s own. But once you overlay it onto the what is going on onscreen then you have greatness. Stanley Kubrick only put out a few movies in his life time witch is a shame. This really is the work of a master filmmaker, and to think this one was one of the last films he put out is to question how much better the world of Hollywood would be if he hadn’t passed away.
Do yourself a favor and watch this is you haven’t already. Hell, do yourself a favor and watch it again if you had. This is one of the best horror movie, no, one of the best movies of all time.


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