Worth A Look: 11.43%
Pretty Bad: 4.9%
Total Crap: 3.27%
7 reviews, 203 user ratings
|Shining, The (1980)
by MP Bartley
Horror films are like comedies in that they're one of the most subjective genres around. What's one mans terror is anothers man kids show. But then there films like this. I defy anyone to attempt to watch this without having their nerves shredded at least once.A lot of horror films can lose their impact over time. If it wasn't for it's infamous masturbation scene would 'The Exorcist' be as highly regarded in the history of horror flicks? Hell, even Heather and Josh's camping trip in Burkitsville has lost some of it's power. But not this puppy,oh no...
"I wasn't scared at all. And neither was my friend hiding behind the couch."
It took me three attempts to watch it all the way through. Each time I was just too un-nerved and creeped out to watch it all the way through. I lasted about an hour probably before turning it off with the words, "Well, that's more than enough for me". Eventually I did make it all the way through in one of my later teenage years, and boy I did sleep with the lights on that night.
Then last year I showed it to my flatmate, 23, and one of the biggest cynics I've ever known, who'd never seen it before. He lasted about an hour into it before mumbling something about "having to be up early" and then quickly vanishing to bed.
It's that powerful.
Baed on the Stephen King novel, 'The Shining' is how wannabe writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a 5 month job as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, during the off season. It'll be completely deserted apart from him, his wife (Shelley Duvall) and his young son Danny (Danny Lloyd). This is just what Jack is after: complete isolation from the outside world to concentrate on his writing. But there are a few dark clouds on the horizon...One of the previous caretakers at the Overlook went beserk and butchered his family during a similiar season. And Danny is a very strange little boy. He seems to see things no-one else does and has a creepy talking finger (this could have easily been so laughable, but works horribly here). The departing caretaker O'Halloran (Scatman Crowthers) knows what this gift of Danny's is. He shares it too and calls it the shining. O'Halloran leaves Jack and his family and takes off home. Everything seems to be fine at first, but then the quiet and the isolation begins to prey on Jack. And it quickly becomes clear that they're not alone in the hotel...
Like all the best horror, 'The Shining' takes a simple premise and twists it into one of the most nerve-wracking two hours you'll ever experience. From the opening shots of a winding country road to the Overlook and bathroom shots of Danny talking to himself via his finger, there's a sense of dread and impending violence, which just builds and builds until you, Nicholson and the film snap into fully fledged terror. Critics argue that Nicholson hams this role up, but he puts the fear of God into you like Jason and Freddie couldn't in a million slasher flicks. He's a tightly wound up ball of frustation and nerves that you just know is about to be pushed over the edge.
He's most probably remembered in this role for the 'Here's Johnny!' line but it's a far more effective and subtle performance than that line would suggest. After battering the door down to get to his wife he announces romantically, 'Honey, I'm home'. It's one of the few sprinklings of humour in the film, but it comes naturally and acts as one of those moments of comic relief that manages to be terrifying at the same time.
He's ably supported by the supporting cast. Danny Lloyd manages to outcreep both Haley Joel Osment and the kid from Poltergeist, as the kind of kid you would just not want to be friends with. And even the shrieky Shelley Duvall is fine in her role. Check the scene where she's forced to lock Jack into the freezer. She's equally scared out of her wits and heartbroken by her husband.
But it's not the cast that's the main star or what makes 'The Shining' so scary. It's the actual hotel itself and Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick just has the uncanny knack of making the seemingly ordinary, disturbing. There's just something about that ballroom. There's just something about those long corridors. There's something about the grounds of the place. This all adds up to an environment that just keeps the audience on a permanent state of unease and dread. Even scenes of Danny trundling around the corridors on his bike are turned into something uniquely haunting by Kubricks roaming camera. And the scene where Duvall finds out just what Jack has been writing for the past few weeks is easily one of the most effective scenes in any horror film. And there's no blood or people jumping out of shadows. Just a stomach clutching realisation that Jack is going laa-laa. Kubrick takes numerous horror cliches (doors slowly opening, figures behind curtains) and gives them fresh, scary quality that never lessens for a second.
And the less said about the two murdered girls that Danny keeps glimpsing the better. I actually physically reacted to them the first time I watched it, and to this day I can barely look at them, there's just...somethingabout them.
He also knew how to get the right edge of hysteria from the cast. He filmed endless re-take upon retake of Shelley Duvall walking down a corridor until she collapsed in tears, sobbing "What do you want? What the hell do you want Mr.Kubrick?". He also fed Nicholson endless cheese sandwiches, which he hated until he actually was in a rage. This real sense of anger and desperation permeates the whole film and filters to the audience. 'The Shining' is one of those few films where you feel you actually exist in the film. You're as glad to make it through the film as the actors are by the end. Only 'The Blair Witch Project' comes as close to it's intense and gruelling journey.
Kubrick films were always some of the coldest films around and this style suits 'The Shining' perfectly. There's no time for sentimentality, Kubrick just wants to scare us witless and he manages it effortlessly. He also plays it like the master he surely was at the time, and has no intention of playing to the audience by explaining it all. He leaves questions hanging in the air.Is Jack simply mad or is the hotel really haunted? What does it have to do with Danny's shining and the final shot asks us has Jack always been part of the Overlook?
We get no answers, but when it comes to true horror, 'The Shinings' the only answer we ever need. It gets you every time.
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originally posted: 04/04/02 22:22:16