Apologies once again for the lack of Film posts recently…I hope to get at least 2 a week out until the NBA season starts again and then I’ll cut that down to one. But anyway, today we have one of the most well regarded horrors in history, although hated by its original author. Its the masterful Stanley Kubrick‘s masterful 1980 film, The Shining!!
Apart from Stephen King (the original book’s author) you’ll struggle to find any film fan who doesn’t like The Shining…at least in my experience. What’s so special about this film is that every shot is like a piece of artwork…it truly is a beautiful film to watch as well as being a terrifying one. While some horrors that we have already discussed on this journey have been of the grittier, more realistic variety (a style which I usually prefer for the genre), this is definitely not one of those instances…but I love it all the same.
One major reason I love it is, no surprise here, the performances. The legendary Jack Nicholson gives one of his finest as Jack Torrance, a man who goes insane after taking a winter care-taking job at the secluded ‘Overlook Hotel’. His transformation from pleasant father and writer to axe wielding killer is breathtaking to watch. Shelley Duvall is also, in my opinion, terrific as Wendy, Jack’s wife who takes the full toll of Jack’s depleting sanity and goes completely hysterical herself. I think the acting from Duvall perfectly suits her character, despite what some may think. It’s also worth noting that Kubrick was deliberately cruel and ignorant of Duvall on set in order for her to get her character into the mental state he desired…if that’s not dedication to the craft then I don’t know what is. Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance, the son who possesses the power to ‘shine’ (essentially predicting future events) gives a phenomenal performance for a child of his age…easily one of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. It is the scenes with Danny that are the ones that tend to offer the most in terms of atmospheric creepiness…a huge element of the film.
Another notable performance is that of Scatman Crothers , who had previously starred alongside Nicholson in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975. Crothers plays Dick Hallorann, a fellow ‘shiner’ to Danny and very likeable employee of the Overlook. It is he who sees, through Danny’s ability to share his predictions with fellow ‘shiners’, what is happening to Jack and quickly rushes back to the hotel in a thick snowstorm to attempt to save the family…what happens to him when he gets there is shocking and, as with everything else, incredibly well put together.
For me, I’d have to say that there isn’t a bad moment within the film, or a bad aspect of it. Yes it might have twisted and turned Stephen King’s original novel a bit but the result, as far as the horror genre is concerned, is something rather spectacular. From the cinematography, eerily following Danny around the empty hotel on his tricycle, never knowing what’s going to be around the next corner, to the sound, perfectly creepy, mysterious and intense, to the set design which, for anyone with a fear for open spaces and emptiness would be truly terrifying. There honestly is not a single thing I don’t love about it…and it’s such a different horror to others, perfectly and pleasantly unique.
Now for those who have seen The Shining, which I presume is most people but you never can be sure. I bet you were wondering when I’d be talking about the twins…well it’s now. Even those who haven’t seen the film are probably aware of the twin girls that pop up, incredibly creepily to request Danny ‘come play with us, for ever and ever and ever’. It is definitely one of the most iconic and eerie elements of the entire film and is a perfect example of the supernatural element within it. The film really does have a bit of everything in it, as far as the genre is concerned, yet it far from deals with cliches…I don’t even know if that makes sense but I hope it further states what a truly special film this is.
As far as story is concerned, all you need to know is that the Torrance family move to the secluded Overlook Hotel for the winter as Jack, the father has taken a job. There, mysterious events occur and Jack seemingly becomes more and more ‘at one’ with the mysterious and supernatural hotel. It has so much depth of story to it involving all characters but that is the basic, main outline.
It also has one of the most inexplicable scenes in film history…a shot which literally no-one in film can explain…
As well as having some of my favourite fan theories of any film surrounding it.
I hope that was all you needed to tell you to go and watch The Shining if you never have…up there with the absolute best of the genre.
Next up we have another iconic horror, a werewolf film from the following year displaying some of the finest special effects within the genre. Set in England, about an American and involving deepest darkest Yorkshire (that’s just a little joke for myself). I’m sure that’s an easy enough hint.
The Journey Continues