The Shining (1980)

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers. The film is based on Stephen King‘s 1977 novel The Shining.

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The initial European release of The Shining was 25 minutes shorter than the American version, due to removal of most of the scenes taking place outside the environs of the hotel. Unlike Kubrick’s previous works, which developed audiences gradually through word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, initially opening in two cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide a month later. Although contemporary responses from critics were mixed, assessment became more favorable in following decades, and it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made.

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American director Martin Scorsese ranked it one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Critics, scholars, and crew members (such as Kubrick’s producer Jan Harlan) have discussed the film’s enormous influence on popular culture.

A truly brilliant and scary film from Stanley Kubrick.

Author: unbreakablepabs (unbreakable_pabs_101@hotmail.com) from London
29 June 2003

I can’t praise this film long enough!

The Shining is, without doubt, one of Stanley Kubrick’s undisputed masterpieces and a true classic in horror cinema. It is a film that, over the course of the years, has managed to scare the living hell out of its audiences (and still does). The film is an adaptation of Stepehen King’s original novel, written in the late ’70s, and although the film is not very loyal to the book, it still stands as a thing of its own.

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Right from the beginning, as we contemplate the car going to the hotel from those stunning aerial shots, deeply inside us we know that something in the film, somehow, sometime is going to go wrong. As we obtain that severe warning, an almost inaudible voice gently whispers to us ‘sit tight’, a sense of unexpectedness invades us all, and it is that very same feeling that makes our hair stand on end throughout out the entire movie.

The plot is simple: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in up in the secluded mountains of Colorado. Jack, being a family man, takes his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) to the hotel to keep him company throughout the long, isolated nights. During their stay, strange things occur when Jack’s son Danny sees gruesome images powered by a force called ‘the shining’ and Jack is heavily affected by this. Along with writer’s block and the demons of the hotel haunting him, Jack has a complete mental breakdown and the situation takes a sinister turn for the worse.

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The film, unlike many horror-oriented films nowadays, doesn’t only rely on stomach-churning and gory images (which it does contain, anyway) but on the incredibly scary music based on the works of Béla Bartók and on the excellent cinematography (the Steadicam is superbly used, giving us a sense of ever-following evil), as well. The terrifying mood and atmosphere of the film is carefully and masterfully woven by Kubrick, who clearly knows how to really make a horror movie.

Jack Nicholson’s powerful performance as the mad father and husband is as over the top as it is brilliant. Shelley Duvall, who plays the worrying wife who tries to help her son, is also a stand out; she shows a kind of trembling fear in many scenes and is able to display weakness and vulnerability in a very convincing way. Undoubtedly, The Shining is full of memorable moments (the elevator scene or the ‘Heeeeeere’s Johnny’ one-liner for instance) and, simply put, it’s flawlessly brilliant.

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Stanley Kubrick’s direction is pure excellence, giving the whole film a cold and atmospheric look, thus creating an unbearable sense of paranoia and terror. There are moments of sheer brilliance and exquisite perfection in this film; the horrifying maze chase is a perfect example. Every single shot is masterfully created and there are some genuinely scary scenes which will make you sit on the edge of your seat.

The Shining is, in my opinion, a special landmark in horror cinema which will always be regarded as one of the scariest movies in film history. Since I saw it last year, when I was 13, I have rarely been able to have a bath in my bathtub.Just in case, ya know. Overall, The Shining is incomparably the scariest film I’ve ever seen in my whole life (and I can tell you I’ve seen a great deal of horror films).

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It is an unforgettable, chilling, majestic and truly, profoundly scary film crafted by an eccentric genius who wants to show that the impossible can be done. The Shining is a sublime, hauntingly intriguing and endlessly watchable film that shows Kubrick at his best.

Fact: Kubrick is better than King

Author: Ricky Roma (thepestilence001@yahoo.co.uk) from http://rioranchofilmreviews.blogspot.com/
16 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s well know that Stephen King doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining (so much so that he scripted an abysmal TV movie version). According to him, Kubrick didn’t understand the horror genre. Well, I think Kubrick did. I think he understood it only too well. He knew that it was a genre full of conventions, cheap tricks and tired clichés. Therefore Kubrick decided to throw all that nonsense out of the window and make a film based on atmosphere rather than predictable thrills.

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You don’t get people here jumping out of the dark time after time. You don’t get worthless shocks. Kubrick’s version of The Shining is an insidious film. It gets under your skin. In other words, it isn’t for Pavlovian dogs that have spent a lifetime being conditioned by cretinous nonsense.

What runs deepest through The Shining is a frustration with family. Right from the beginning it’s obvious that Jack isn’t happy with his lot – as he’s being shown around the hotel he can’t help but take a sneaky look at the backsides of a couple of women. Well, can you blame him? The poor man is married to a bug-eyed, bucktoothed Olive Oil look-a-like.

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Then there’s Jack’s quiet frustration with his son Danny. As he’s driving to the hotel, he’s bothered by requests for food. And then his son makes out that he’s knowledgeable because he saw a programme on TV. Already he’s slightly irked – he’s got to spend months alone with these people; one who resembles Popeye’s missus and one who talks to his finger.

So really the hotel brings out nothing that isn’t already there. It merely brings everything to the surface – Jack’s resentment as regards his wife, his frustration as regards his lack of writing talent and his annoyance at having a troubled son. It’s kind of like he’s testing his family. Are they strong enough as a unit to survive being cooped up together?

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One of the underlying themes in the film seems to be television. What happens in The Shining is what happens when someone stops watching the idiot box. With it, a person can find solace in mindless programming and retreat from the strictures of family life. Without it they’re faced with all their problems and all the failings of their loved ones. Even the strongest family can be brought to its knees when there’s no escape from each other’s company. Therefore it’s quite telling, when Jack loses the plot completely, that he spouts lines from TV: “Honey, I’m home” and “Here’s Johnny.” Just watch some television, Jack.

But it’s also the pain of writing that contributes to Jack’s insanity. There’s nothing quite as harrowing as an empty page. Plus there’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted mid-flow. One of the best scenes in the film is when Jack tells his wife to get lost when she interrupts him.

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It’s extremely violent in how cold Jack is towards Wendy. And because it’s grounded in a reality, it’s all the more effective.

Also rather unsettling is the scene where Jack talks to his son. He makes Danny sit on his lap and he proceeds to tell him how much he loves him and how he’d never hurt him. It works so well because it’s so cold and because there’s such an obvious lack of affection. The words are just empty platitudes. They mean absolutely nothing.

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Jack’s true feelings are only revealed when he gets to talk to Lloyd. It’s in this scene that you realise the marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – Wendy has never forgiven him for accidentally hurting his son. And it’s also in this scene that you realise (as if you hadn’t noticed earlier) that Jack is absolutely crackers. He’s talking to ghosts. But they could also be figments of his imagination, for there are mirrors behind most of the ghosts he talks to. Effectively he’s talking to himself. And I love this matter of fact way of dealing with the supernatural. There are no fancy tricks. Everything just seems unnaturally natural.

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In fact, everything to do with the ghosts is superbly handled. The twins are spooky, Lloyd is amiable and Grady is out of his mind. And it’s Grady who’s probably the most chilling presence in the film. He starts off as a bumbling waiter but then quickly becomes a stone cold killer. Just the way he says ‘corrected’ conveys more terror than a million slasher films. And Philip Stone’s performance is a million times more subtle than Nicholson’s. I mean, as much as I like Jack in the film, he does chew the scenery. But Kubrick likes his over the top performances, so that’s the way he wanted it.

And undoubtedly it’s Kubrick’s movie. He’s the real star. And I love everything he brings to the film. I love his command of lighting – just look at The Gold Room scenes. I love his use of music. I love the way that he turns the Room 237 scene, one that could have been a standard ‘jump’ scene, into a comment on Jack’s marriage – his willingness to be unfaithful. I love the way that he leaves lots of unanswered questions.

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I love the shots of the blood coming out of the lift. I love the helicopter shots at the start. I love the way that pages and pages of typed words are the most frightening visual in the film. I love the maze. I love the fact that you see a ghost getting a blow-job from a ghost in a bear suit… Man, I love absolutely everything about this film. It’s horror for people who know that true horror isn’t being stalked by a man in a mask, but being trapped alone with your family.

A classic horror from a master director

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
29 October 2001

When Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is offered a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel he accepts it as an opportunity to work on his novel in an isolated environment. He is told stories of the last caretaker going mad and butchering his family but isn’t deterred. He arrives at the Overlook Hotel with his wife (Duvall) and child Danny (Lloyd) and is shown around the hotel by the cook (Scatman Crothers) who has the gift of perception. The cook warns Danny that the hotel can be of particular danger for those with the gift. It’s only a matter of time before Jack begins to act increasingly erratic.

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This is one of Jack Nicholson’s finest roles, his increasingly unhinged character is amusing and terrifying in almost equal measures. Duvall plays the role of the terrorised wife quite well – she does look like she’s genuinely filled with fear – but doesn’t have much else to do. Lloyd is excellent as the boy, although he doesn’t have too much emotion to express. However no doubt that this is Jack’s show.

The story doesn’t stick to King’s novel and is better for it; this is Kubrick’s Shining. The film has plenty of genuinely scary moments but manages to keep a creepy atmosphere all through – especially as the ghosts come out and Jack begins to move between his reality and the reality that is gradually claiming him.

Kubrick is excellent here, his cold direction adds to the overall creep factor of the film. It’s one of the best examples of his masterful touch.

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Overall this is an excellent horror movie – because the focus is on horror and fear rather than gore alone (as with modern horrors). Jack is excellent in one of his best roles ever and the whole package is delivered in a cold creepy manner by a sadly lost director.

The greatest horror movie of all time.

10/10
Author: Michael DeZubiria (wppispam2013@gmail.com) from Luoyang, China
2 April 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, okay, maybe not THE greatest. I mean, The Exorcist and Psycho and a few others are hard to pass up, but The Shining is way up there. It is, however, by far the best Stephen King story that has been made into a movie. It’s better than The Stand, better than Pet Sematary (if not quite as scary), better than Cujo, better than The Green Mile, better the Dolores Claiborne, better than Stand By Me (just barely, though), and yes, it’s better than The Shawshank Redemption (shut up, it’s better), I don’t care WHAT the IMDb Top 250 says.

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I read that, a couple of decades ago, Stanley Kubrick was sorting through novels at his home trying to find one that might make a good movie, and from the other room, his wife would hear a pounding noise every half hour or so as he threw books against the wall in frustration. Finally, she didn’t hear any noise for almost two hours, and when she went to check and see if he had died in his chair or something (I tell this with all due respect, of course), she found him concentrating on a book that he had in his hand, and the book was The Shining. And thank God, too, because he went on to convert that book into one of the best horror films ever.

Stephen King can be thanked for the complexity of the story, about a man who takes his wife and son up to a remote hotel to oversee it during the extremely isolated winter as he works on his writing. Jack Nicholson can be thanked for his dead-on performance as Jack Torrance (how many movies has Jack been in where he plays a character named Jack?), as well as his flawless delivery of several now-famous lines (`Heeeeeere’s Johnny!!’).

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Shelley Duvall can be thanked for giving a performance that allows the audience to relate to Jack’s desires to kill her. Stanley Kubrick can be thanked for giving this excellent story his very recognizable touch, and whoever the casting director was can be thanked for scrounging up the creepiest twins on the planet to play the part of the murdered girls.

One of the most significant aspects of this movie, necessary for the story as a whole to have its most significant effect, is the isolation, and it’s presents flawlessly. The film starts off with a lengthy scene following Jack as he drives up to the old hotel for his interview for the job of the caretaker for the winter. This is soon followed by the same thing following Jack and his family as they drive up the windy mountain road to the hotel. This time the scene is intermixed with shots of Jack, Wendy, and Danny talking in the car, in which Kubrick managed to sneak in a quick suggestion about the evils of TV, as Wendy voices her concern about talking about cannibalism in front of Danny, who says that it’s okay because he’s already seen it on TV (`See? It’s okay, he saw it on the television.’).

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The hotel itself is the perfect setting for a story like this to take place, and it’s bloody past is made much more frightening by the huge, echoing rooms and the long hallways. These rooms with their echoes constantly emphasize the emptiness of the hotel, but it is the hallways that really created most of the scariness of this movie, and Kubrick’s traditional tracking shots give the hallways a creepy three-dimensional feel. Early in the film, there is a famous tracking shot that follows Danny in a large circle as he rides around the halls on his Big Wheel (is that what those are called?), and his relative speed (as well as the clunking made by the wheels as he goes back and forth from the hardwood floors to the throw rugs) gives the feeling of not knowing what is around the corner. And being a Stephen King story, you EXPECT something to jump out at you. I think that the best scene in the halls (as well as one of the scariest in the film) is when Danny is playing on the floor, and a ball rolls slowly up to him. He looks up and sees the long empty hallway, and because the ball is something of a child’s toy, you expect that it must have been those horrendously creepy twins that rolled it to him. Anyway, you get the point. The Shining is a damn scary movie.

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Besides having the rare quality of being a horror film that doesn’t suck, The Shining has a very in depth story that really keeps you guessing and leaves you with a feeling that there was something that you missed. HAD Jack always been there, like Mr. Grady told him in the men’s room? Was he really at that ball in 1921, or is that just someone who looks exactly like him? If he has always been the caretaker, as Mr. Grady also said, does that mean that it was HIM that went crazy and killed his wife and twin daughters, and not Mr. Grady, after all? It’s one thing for a film to leave loose ends that should have been tied, that’s just mediocre filmmaking. For example, The Amityville Horror, which obviously copied much of The Shining as far as its subject matter, did this.

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But it is entirely different when a film is presented in a way that really makes you think (as mostly all of Kubrick’s movies are). One more thing that we can all thank Stanley Kubrick for, and we SHOULD thank him for, is for not throwing this book against the wall. That one toss would have been cinematic tragedy.

Jack Torrance Meets David Bowman

Author: (tgarbari@ix.netcom.com) from New Jersey
18 February 1999

What can I say about the scariest movie I have ever seen that has not already been said by others more articulate than yours truly? Do not view this film expecting to see a screen version of the Stephen King novel. Rather, this is a Stanley Kubrick film, and to fully appreciate it one should judge it within the context of Kubrick’s entire body of work as a serious filmmaker. Thematically, THE SHINING relates most closely to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, though flourishes of PATHS OF GLORY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and BARRY LYNDON do manage to figure prominently in the film’s overall technique.

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In a nutshell (no pun intended), Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall co-star with Oregon’s Timberline Lodge – enlisted to portray the exterior of the Overlook Hotel – in a story that appears on the surface to be about ghosts and insanity, but deals with issues of child abuse, immortality and duality.

What the film might lack initially in terms of coherence is more than made up for in technique. Garrett Brown (the male voice in those old Molson Golden commercials), inventor of the Steadicam, chases young Danny Lloyd through hotel corridors and an amazing snow maze, providing magic-carpet-ride fluidity to scenes that ten years earlier would have been impossible to accomplish. If the film starts off too slow, remember who the director is. This man likes to take his time, and the results are well worth it: incredible aerial shots of the Overlook Hotel; horrific Diane Arbus-inspired twins staring directly at us; portentous room 237 and its treasure trove of terrible secrets; elevators that gush rivers of blood in slow-motion; Jack Torrance’s immortality found via the hotel (akin to David Bowman’s journey through the Space Gate); and some of the best use of pre-existing music ever assembled for a motion picture.

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It would take a book to examine and defend the film’s strong points and drawbacks. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch it alone with the lights off, with no interruptions, and make sure that it’s raining. This is a cinematic experience that changed my life at the age of 14. Makes a great double feature with Robert Wise’s 1963 thriller THE HAUNTING.

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9/10
Author: yancyscott1 from United States
9 April 2007

Even though The Shining is over a quarter of a century old, I challenge anyone to not get freaked out by Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness. This is a rare example of something so unique that no one has been able to rip it off; instead it has been referenced time and again in pop culture. The twins, the elevator of blood, RedRum, the crazy nonsense “writing”… this should be seen, if for nothing else, to understand all the allusions to it in daily life. The film is simultaneously scary, suspenseful, beautiful, and psychologically intriguing. It has the classic mystery of Hitchcock and the terror of a modern thriller. And it has what horror movies usually lack: a great script.

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Eeriness surpassed by class

10/10
Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
24 November 2008

Sometimes all good horror needs is a good idea. But sometimes, rarely indeed, a horror masterpiece will reach us by the hand of a Kubrick, with the adept, elusive touch of a great artist to guide the vision, and we know what separates it from all else.

Okay, the story has enough promise that even a hired gun would have to try to fail. Heck, even Stephen King himself didn’t fare so bad. It’s how Kubrick perceives King’s universe however, how he fills the frame with it, that renders THE SHINING a feast for the senses.

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Horror that will reach us through the mind and body alike, an assault as it were, tending eventually its pitch to a crescendo, yet curiously not without a delicate lull.

Kubrick’s cinema is, as usually, a sight to behold. We get the adventurous camera that prowls through the lavish corridors of the Overlook Hotel like it is some kind of mystic labyrinth rife for exploration, linear tracking shots exposing impeccably decorated interiors in symmetric grandeur. The geometrical approach in how Kubrick perceives space reminds me very much of Japanese directors of some 10 years before. In that what is depicted in the frame, the elements of narrative, is borderline inconsequential to how they all balance and harmonize together.

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Certain images stand out in this. The first shot of Jack’s typewriter, ominously accompanied by the off-screen thumps of a ball, drums of doom that seem to emanate from the very walls or the typewriter itself, an instrument of doom in itself as is later shown. A red river flowing through the hotel’s elevators in a poetry of slow motions. Jack hitting the door with the axe, the camera moving along with him, tracking the action as it happens, as though it’s the camera piercing through the door and not the axe. The ultra fast zoom in the kid’s face violently thrusting us inside his head before we see the two dead girls from his POV. And of course, the epochal bathroom scene.

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Much has been said of Jack Nicholson’s obtrusive overacting. His mad is not entirely successful, because, well, he’s Jack Nicholson. The guy looks half-mad anyway. Playing mad turns him into an exaggerated caricature of himself. Shelley Duvall on the other hand is one of the most inspired casting choices Kubrick ever made. Coming from a streak of fantastic performances for Robert Altman in the seventies (3 WOMEN, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE), she brings to her character the right amounts of swanlike fragility and emotional distress. A delicate, detached thing thrown in with the mad.

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