Heeeeeeerrrrreeeeee’ssss Matty! Heeeeeeeereeeeee with another Throwback Thursday review and if you are reading this you will know by now that today’s film is The Shining. Based on the 1977 novel by Stephen King, it is almost certainly one of the creepiest films ever made- definitely worthy of a look back nearly forty years after its release. I have a bit of a soft spot for this movie because I watched this when I was… probably too young.
Directed by the great Stanley Kubrick, the story focuses on a struggling writer called Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife (Shelley Duvall) and their young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Jack takes on a role as caretaker at the Overlook Hotel during the winter where they are going to be isolated for the entirety of the season. Pretty quickly though, events take a sinister turn and the family get caught in one hell of a nightmare involving cabin fever and mysterious forces of nature.
Straight away, you can tell this is going to be a very disturbing film because of the long eerie shots used as the family travel to the hotel. They could not be more alone trapped up there in the Rockies and the film gets that mentality straight into your mind. Furthermore, I think it would be fair to say that the family never seem entirely normal- all of them just seem a little bizarre- which is a credit to their fantastic performances. Nicholson, Duvall and Lloyd are absolutely fabulous and I think it is almost criminal that they did not receive Oscar credit (amazingly it was nominated for two Razzies, one for Duvall’s work… Wow). Nicholson shines (puntastic!) as a total nutter, to put it mildly, Duvall plays a woman totally on edge and Lloyd (in what is essentially his only role on screen) has one of the best child actor performances ever. A lot of credit for this, a little disturbingly, has to go to Kubrick who basically psychologically tormented the cast for months to get their best performances. Apparently, they weren’t angry with him but… hmmm…
Considering yesterday’s piece about Book to Film adaptations (which you can get to with this link), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention King’s opinion on the film. Over the years, he has come out with lots of conflicting statements about it but, all in all, it seems as if he is unhappy about it. Some of that comes from a change in the focus from Danny in the book to Jack in the film and the rest from the direction and performances. Whilst the former may be true, the latter is certainly not an issue with both book and film being defining works of art. I am a little behind on Kubrick but this is my favourite of his films based largely on his direction. It is full of such powerful imagery of the twins, the corridor of blood, THAT woman in the bath (ewww gawd) and more. The list of classic set design, effects and cinematography is endless; they were particularly disturbing for me as a child.
However, while I may not agree with King’s criticisms, I do have some of my own and I think it mostly comes down to pacing, some story choices and the ending. I know that classics have to be viewed with different eyes to modern films because of the change in cinema as a whole. Films now are like lightning bolts compared to steam engines of old. However, there are many classics where I do not find this an issue but at times, I think this film suffers from it. A couple of plot points outside the hotel seem a little extraneous to me too, making certain characters come across as arbitrary. Lastly, the ending has its sublime moments but that one image of Jack has always struck me as a little goofy really and perhaps a little unsatisfactory in its conclusion as a whole.
Overall, there is no denying its place as a horror classic and few films now could top it. Considering the horror movies that come out nowadays (check out some of my other horror reviews of late), this is a genuine masterpiece but it does come across as a little bit of a product of its time. At the end of the day, this is King and Kubrick at their best. Get watching!