The Shining (1980) Movie Review
Written by Stephen King (novel), Stanley Kubrick (screenplay)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
It’s no secret that King and Kubrick clashed on this project. King wanted Richard Dreyfuss to play Torrence, clearly he didn’t get his way, nor did Kubrick accept the screenplay from King himself. He opted for himself and another writer to pen the epic theatrical version. Throw in how much Kubrick hated Duvall over her desire to improv such important dialogue, and you have a perfect storm for angry film making. Whether it did or not, I can’t answer, but this film is tits for several generations to come.
Jack Torrance (Nicholson), a writer, and one time alcoholic, accepts a seasonal position as the off-season caretaker for the historic Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. Along for the ride is his wife, Wendy (Duvall), and his young son, Danny (Lloyd). Danny has a unique type of extrasensory skill called “Shining”, a kind of ESP meets telepathy if you will. Equally important to the family is the Overlook itself. Built on Native Indian ground, and even rumored to have fought off an Indian attack or two during its construction. Just in case we don’t have fertile enough grounds for horror, the last caretaker, Mr. Grady (Phillip Stone), went crazy from the isolation and claustrophobia and eventually murder his wife and twin daughters before shoving both barrels of a shotgun in his mouth. Danny has an invisible person that lives in his mouth named Tony. Tony communicates with a scratchy voice through Danny, who moves his first finger to mimic Tony’s speech. With me so far? Tony shows Danny the first iconic image from the film – the blood rushing out of the elevators, coating everything crimson it its wake. Tony ain’t having it, but already knew Jack got the job before he calls to announce it.
Instantly seizing the opportunity to use the dreadful sense of isolation and cabin fever, Jack begins to have dreams of killing his family. Working on a new writing project, Jack, lets the influence of the Overlook send in him into a vulgar and angry rant when Wendy disturbs him. Her submissive trait is just one of the reasons why I hated her as Wendy Torrence. Warned to stay away from room 237, Danny forges a kindred if not reluctant relationship with the Overlook’s chef, Dick Hollarann (Crothers), and learns that the Shining isn’t exclusive to him, showing us that Hollarann has the same extrasensory powers. Over chocolate ice cream, Dick tells Danny how even places leave lingering parts of their past behind and people who Shine can pick up those vibes like a radio.
As time passes, so does the hotel’s influence on Jack. Broken already from his former drunken lash at Danny, insanity, isolation, and claustrophobia, Torrance slowly begins to lose his shit in the darkest of manners. The static scenes of him standing motionless, overcome with evil while that music plays is sheer genius on Kubrick’s part. As winter sets in, the isolation and gloom take center stage along with the ghosts of the hotel. Further capitalizing on such a unique setting, Kubrick made impossible interior shots to confuse and break down the viewer. We see large windows from exterior shots that are architecturally impossible when we see the interior. The endless spreading hallways and massive sense of scale helps The Shining succeed in ways not even realized by the casual viewer.
I’m not going to breakdown every scene in this movie, I know it’s hard to believe, but some of the younger horror generation haven’t seen this yet. Kubrick captured many iconic images and plots that are still being shittily imitated in modern cinema. The scenes with Danny rushing down the labyrinth hallways on his Big Wheel are some of the most creative and time-tested scenes ever filmed in this genre. Kubrick likes a theme, the color red is visible throughout much of the movie, and it serves its purpose well. The many themes and motivations of The Shining keep this in the top five horror movies of all time regardless of what the future holds. The opening scenes of the movie always manage to resonate in my bones. The sweeping camera over the water and snow-capped mountains just moves me to my core. If you haven’t seen this brilliant and game changing horror masterpiece, I implore you to please do so. Decide for yourself if this is insanity or if Torrance is absorbed into the permanent history of this ominous hotel.
I don’t usually watch scary movies, but I read the book because I am a HUGE SK fan. The movie was actually really good!
This was the first horror movie I ever watched, and I was totally riveted to it!! It’s some amazing film-making, and I absolutely loved it. I hated Duvall, also, and I especially make fun of her when she’s running through the hotel with the huge knife shaking in her hand as she has a blank look on her face.
This was also my introduction to Stephen King, who is such an incredibly masterful storyteller, and it’s really scary how he gets all these awful ideas for his books from dreams he has—-makes insomnia sound great!!! This is about the only case when I have liked a movie better than the book. When I read The Shining, it seemed so slow and anticlimactic compared to the movie.
The incredible acting abilities of the infamous Nicholson drag you completely into this film, and they don’t let go of you. And the little boy is terrifying, also. I remember reading an article in The Pantagraph years ago when the boy, who was from Tremont, Illinois, was graduating from high school. I guess somehow they were able to keep the entire idea of the movie from him and Kubrick just directed him to have certain facial expressions and to talk in a certain way. Amazing.
I have to also say that once I had my own identical twins girls, the imagery of the twins in the movie horrified me even more.
This is my favorite horror movie of all-time, and I really don’t know how that could possibly change. I have to admit, too, that I didn’t even watch the mini-series that King had on TV in 1997, I believe. I know he wanted to have the movie done the way he had written it and had always seen it, but the Kubrick version is just so untouchable that I can’t imagine anything else having such an impact.
Brilliant, terrifying film. Top of the pack for good! (Oh, and I heard on the radio this morning that watching horror films burns more calories than watching other things, and the movie that burns the most calories is The Shining. I can definitely see that happening!)
Great review. And there’s no easy way to summarize this film and all of the aspects in it!!