The Shinning is undeniably a seminal piece of horror cinema. Stephen King’s novel, as adapted by Stanley Kubrick, is about as famous and universally loved by fans of the genre as any film ever made. It’s widely considered a ground-breaking (second use ever of a steady-cam) film with only pathetic trolls saying otherwise. Honestly, there are people that believe the mini-series version of this film, starring the guy from Wings, is better. That just shows us that there are a lot of people that shouldn’t be allowed to breed. Steven Webber vs. Jack Nicholson. That’s like Mike Tyson vs. a Girl Scout. No f*cking contest. The oddest thing, Stephen King is Camp Lunacy with the trolls. He is quoted as saying he, “remembered hating” this film more than any other of his adapted works; which is absolutely hilarious if you know the track record of his films. He’s since softened his stance, but really?
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) lands a job as the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel during the off season. Along with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duval) and son Danny the trio embarks on a quest to live through the brutal winter in an elegant hotel. Some of them manage to do this, some don’t.
What transpires over the course of 143 minutes is haunting descent into madness that has no equal. Jack Nicholson is simply a tour de force and gives one of his great performances. The scene in the bathroom when Jack talks to Grady is hauntingly brilliant. You can literally see the gears grinding in Jack’s brain as he loses his sh*t. It ranks up there with some of the most disturbing moments in cinema.
The cinematography is much talked about amongst film snobs and students – rightfully so. Long steady shots illustrate the hotels grandeur and expansiveness. Following closely behind Danny’s big wheel, the steady cam provides one of horror’s most famous moments. It’s so incredibly unnerving to hear nothing but the rumble of the toy on the hardwood juxtaposed with the dead silence of the carpet over and over. It’s rhythmic moments like these placed throughout the film that serve to hypnotize audiences into a trance-like state. It becomes harder and harder to turn away. The tension mounts. The film becomes deeply unsettling on a personal level.
The hotel’s massive size and openness is scary in its own right. The thought of staying in a place of that size, especially once things start to go south, is one that most people would think twice about. Being trapped there for months on end with absolutely no escape is a dire thought. But as expansive as the hotel is, it’s the claustrophobic feel of many of the shots of the cramped rooms that ratchet the dread to near unbearable levels. These two forces pull and push each other ever so subtly throughout the film, but both end up playing on fears all too common within the human psyche.
On the surface The Shining is a straight forward story of a man disintegrating. But, in reality, the film has no reliable narrator. Think about it. Jack is clearly crazy and Danny cannot be trusted as he sees and hears things. Only Wendy seems normal, but there is reason to believe that she isn’t all together. If you pay attention closely, it’s easy to notice inconsistencies (doors that lead to nowhere, moving items, etc) that make you wonder what is real and what is being imagined by the characters. Even the film’s final glorious slow zoom onto a hotel photo raises serious doubt on the events that just unfolded.
Simply a masterpiece.
Snore Factor: Z