With the release of Doctor Sleep soon upon us, I thought I would rewatch and review the film that started it all the Shining. The Kubrick version, not the straight to TV version that King prefers.
The Shining is a psychological horror film released in 1980, based on the Stephen King book of the same name. The plot follows Jack Torrance, (Jack Nicholson), as he becomes the caretaker of the infamous Overlook Hotel, moving his family to the hotel for its off-season. The hotel is of course not what it appears to be, and soon all sorts of horrific happenings begin, with Jack and his son Danny at the centre of it.
The Shining is directed by one of the all-time great Film Auteurs Stanley Kubrick, and his fingerprints are all over this film, both stylistically and thematically. Kubrick’s direction help to tie together the human threat with the supernatural elements, creating a delightfully ambiguous narrative.
The horror of this film comes more from a sense of building mystery rather than, the much more prevalent these days, jump scares. I think this adds to the fear-inducing nature of the film, as nothing is presented out-rightly to you, so you have to use your imagination to piece together the blanks and figure out the truth; this allows the film to be far scarier than one that just shows you the monster.
What’s more the performances from the entire cast are electric, Jack Nicholson is wonderfully deranged from the off, but sinks further and further into madness as the film progress. That may perhaps be the one criticism I have of this film, Nicholson’s performance was manic from the beginning, rather than starting out standardly and then getting increasingly more menacing. This makes his endgame performance when he has fully devolved look less impressive.
Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance is also amazing, being both sympathetic and creepy simultaneously, from the start of the film Danny’s conversations with his little finger are distressing, more so when he starts to lose time. To the credit of Lloyd, he manages to do all of this while still being likeable and a character you want to see survive. To be a child-star and be able to do both of these things is something that deserves praise.
Shelly Duvall, who plays Wendy Torrance, Jack’s Wife and Danny’s Mother is best of all. As she perfectly captures the fear being in a situation like that would create in her performance. We see this real sense of desperation on her behalf to try and save Danny in the film act of the film. As well as to try and help and later stop her husband. Kubrick’s actions towards Duvall have been well documented elsewhere as such I won’t go into them here today. Instead, I try and look past them when I watch the film.
My final point is that this film deviates from the book in several significant ways, such as questioning whether the supernatural elements of the story are real. Contrastingly, in the source material, they most certainly were. This adds a new layer to book readers who may think they know where the narrative is heading. In the same breath, it might annoy them. It’s just something worth noting.
Overall the Shining is still a chilling horror classic and one that still holds up almost 40 years later. A must watch for all fans of horror, and I hope Doctor Sleep can live up to the standards set by this film.
Reviewed by Luke