The Shining is a masterpiece of modern horror. With its remarkable visual panache and a keen sense of irony, it is a rare, chilling, majestic piece of cinematic fright benefiting repeated viewings.
This spellbinding 1980 horror masterpiece provides a truly mysterious, haunting, visual experience. Its atmospheric intensity guarantees valuable creeps. It is one of the finest tales of the supernatural within our sphere. And decades after, no other film has yet come in par with its distinctive contribution to the horror and suspense genres and cinema as a whole. It is one of the best horror films of all time.
This film stars a young Jack Nicholson who effectively portrays the role of Jack Torrance, the new winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel (a hotel operating only during the warmer months as the snowy roads deny access to it during the colder season). With his loving wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and clairvoyant son Danny (Danny Lloyd), Jack leads his family towards the isolated hotel where evil and spiritual presence influence him into violence; while his gifted son sees horrific forebodings from the past and the future and his wife suffers from his demented tendencies.
Ostensibly a haunted hotel story, The Shining manages to traverse a complex world of incipient madness, spectral murder, and supernatural visions. With filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s obsessive eye for detail, the film opens with spectacular aerial shots of great, mountainous landscapes where the viewer is brought into a frightening tale that is ironically fronted by quiet, relaxing visuals. As the story progresses, the long, steadicam shots float eerily through the deserted halls and corridors of the hotel, creating a creepy air of tension as horror and madness sink in. Kubrick uses space and imagery to set loose the cold, anti-humanly, indifferent terror of the film. He creates a cool, sunlit vision of hell with his visuals having compulsive symmetry and brightness supplemented by an oddball cast of dead twin girls, suicidal ax-murdering ghosts, psychic hotel cook, and many other weird and wonderful figures encountered by the nuclear family living alone inside the haunted hotel.
The film written for the screen by Kubrick and his co-writer Diane Johnson is not merely about ghosts, but about the madness and the energies they set loose in such an isolated place which ultimately magnifies their presence. Deliberately paced but endlessly creepy, this motion picture offer is a true camp classic. It impressively brings up good psychological scares that can capture a wide range of audience: from the art film lovers to the mainstream horror flick fans. The creepiest part of the film is breathtakingly crafted through the manner of making the audience get the feeling of isolation and fear through Jack’s descent into unbridled insanity. The story brings his character into another level as he and his family continue to interact within the bounds of a deafeningly quiet hotel filled with huge, empty rooms, dreaded ghostly figures, and eerily calm demeanor. The barren hallways disturbed by Jack’s son riding his bike provide such a frightening mood without any dependence on gore, eerie visuals, nor hardcore creepy music.
What is even more fascinating with Kubrick’s films as this one is how each cinematic venture successfully manages to play around universal themes, while being specifically set in particular times and periods, and particularly referring to issues and concerns of his era. Like in the case of The Shining, this movie never gets in any way obsolete even until now. Kubrick is truly a gifted storyteller who can transcend various themes and elements into timeless audio-visual wonders.
Like the recognition for Kubrick’s brilliance in bringing this Stephen King story into moving picture, all the members of his production team deserve such valued recognition for their contributions to this masterpiece as well: the cinematography by John Alcott; the production design by Roy Walker; the film editing by Ray Lovejoy; the music led by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind; and all the rest of the people behind the making of the movie. All the members of the cast from the lead performers to the supporting and minor characters all contributed greatly in making this film what it is.
The Shining is an extraordinary, obsessive, beautiful work of art that doesn’t become passé even after many viewings. Looking back to what it was before and what it is now, a retrospective on it continues to sparkle with such indelible and remarkable images working hand in hand with powerful sound and music. It effectively communicates such abstract and intangible musings. It is something to look forward to watch in a state-of-the-art home theater and the big screen, especially to most of the people from the younger generation who weren’t able to catch its theatrical release three decades ago (occasionally, some film festivals and cinema events provide rare opportunities for audiences to watch it on the big screen).
The Shining has that universal resonance as an immortal classic. It clearly spans eras and generations as it continues to move audiences around the world with such powerful cinematic glory. It may be a cinematic oldie, but it is definitely a cinematic goodie. And it is worth a good space in anyone’s DVD and/or Blu-ray collection where it can continue to shine for the many generations to come.