"The Shining" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film, "The Shining", is considered a horror classic, as well as one of the best films in both the horror genre and Kubrick's discography. It is constantly referenced and parodied, and everyone is familiar with the iconic "Here's Johnny" line delivered by Jack Nicholson through a slit in a wooden door. Even as I write this, in October of 2022, this movie holds up perfectly and is still one of the best horror films from a fantastic director partnered with great actors.
The movie is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, and follows a man named Jack Torrance (Nicholson), who is hired to look after a hotel named the Overlook during its winter hiatus. He is looking forward to the seclusion as he is working hard to finish wiring the book he is working on. Along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), the family travels to stay and look after the Overlook.
However, as time progresses and the loneliness gets lonelier and lonelier, Jack starts to lose his sanity and his mental state. He starts to slip and go crazy, displaying concerning behaviors around his wife and son. However, his mental state is also directly influenced by the demonic presence surrounding the hotel, which is much darker than anyone could have ever expected. This makes the family have to not only fight their inner demons, but themselves, to survive the haunted hotel.
King has gone on to say he hates this adaptation of his novel, and said multiple times that it's the worst film made of his work. This is due to the movie departing from the source material, and adding in so many different elements from Kubrick's mind while also deleting many of the details from the book this picture is inspired by. However, in my honest opinion, this elevates everything the book did, and is perhaps one of the few movies that is better than the book or source material that came before it.
Everything about this movie is so methodically designed and displayed that it doesn't allow for many faults or errors. When reading and studying the history of making this movie and everything that conspired on set, it is evident that everyone on board was so devoted and invested in this film and making the best possible horror movie they possibly can. From Kubrick's documented torture of Duvall and the numerous takes the infamous director made his actors shoot, it really shows the emotional breakdown of not only the characters, but the actors playing these roles as well.
Nicholson and Duvall are amazing in this movie, and perhaps give some of their best performances in their entire careers. The slow burn at the start, which leads to a more dramatic and terrifying third act, is incredible and shows their dynamic acting range and how they are able to craft these characters and make them have feelings and emotions that are just as clear as the viewer's. Many movies try to show their characters having mental breakdowns and show their characters' emotional state declining, but I don't think many can compare to this movie's display of its characters.
Many horror movies, especially nowadays, try too hard to scare the audience with jump scares or terrifying music. While the movie contains both at times, it relies more on the creepiness and intense factor, which I think really works. Kubrick didn't need jump scares or other gimmicks to scare the audiences, but can get inside their heads and make them terrified of what they are watching on the screen. Consider the famous scene in the bathroom of room 237, where Jack kisses a beautiful naked woman who turns out to be a deceased corpse that then chases him out of the room. By today's standard, it would not be considered a scary scene in a modern horror movie. But back then, and even now in rewatches, the scene still terrifies the viewer and is so creepy that it makes the viewer feel scared to go back into their own bathroom at home. Now, that is how you make an audience truly feel terrified, and to sell the whole aspect of the horror genre.
King may hate this movie and will never appreciate it in his lifetime, but this movie definitely holds a place in the hearts of every horror lover, and will go down as one of the finest and best horror thrillers of all time. I appreciate Kubrick's determination and willingness to take a chance on something he wanted to create, especially by departing from an already established source material, and thankfully, it all worked out in the end and this is one of the movies he's remembered most for in his entire career.