Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Running Time: 144 mins
The Shining is an American film about a family that travels to a secluded hotel in the middle of the mountains for the winter, where an evil spirit seems to overcome the father and influence him into acts of horrific violence.
Well, there’s a reason this is such an iconic classic of not only horror cinema, but all of film itself. Apart from being based on the genius story devised by Stephen King, its screenplay is fantastic, Stanley Kubrick’s direction is stunning, the performances are amazing, and its score is absolute genius.
Let’s start with the story and the screenplay. Of all of the Stephen King stories, this is surely the best, because it’s the most original, the most confusing and the most distressing. Even Misery has nothing on this.
That’s an interesting theme in Stephen King’s more successful stories: seclusion and isolation. Not only is it a concept that means the victims are completely helpless, which makes everything a whole lot scarier, but it plays well into the hands of the antagonists, because they have all the power to do as they please, with no, or very little, threat from outside influence.
However, what separates this story from ones like Misery is that it has so many underlying elements. There’s one of the most ambiguous endings in history here, and throughout, it’s incredibly difficult to gauge the sub-meanings and hints towards the truth and explanation of all the mayhem that goes on.
But do not worry, even without understanding or fully getting the truth about the story, this film is still hugely entertaining as a pure psychological horror. However, unlike a lot of psychological horrors which rely on totally supernatural elements that make them totally preposterous, the portrayal of Jack Torrance’s descent into what seems like some sort of insanity is so realistic and therefore all the more terrifying to watch.
Jack Torrance is also one of the best characters I’ve ever seen in a film, made so by many works of genius. Firstly, Jack Nicholson’s performance is astonishing. He takes on such an out-of-character transformation and makes it so believable with his totally brutal and honestly insane acting here.
Secondly, the way that the screenplay works makes him all the more fascinating. As I said, the descent into insanity is largely out of character for Mr. Torrance, and yet you see it coming so clearly due to the subtle, but effective hints given in the screenplay in the hour and a half that leads up to the infamous madness.
I will say that the fact that this seems to take an hour and a half to really kick off may put off some people, but in fact, those opening stages are some of the most consistently tense and engrossing possible.
Being in the closed environment of the hotel, you cannot help but be encapsulated by the story, while Stanley Kubrick’s direction plays fantastically in bringing you close to all of the characters, making you think that everyone will have a part to play in what will happen, but never revealing how so…
However, the most impressive thing about this entire film, that also contributes most to creating the incredible tension is the score, or the lack thereof. Basically, the music in this film is either utter silence, which creates perfect eeriness, or there is an ear-piercing squeal accompanied by drumbeats, which is incredibly ominous and disturbing, adding to the atmosphere highly.
Overall, this gets an 8.6, for its all-round genius in a range of categories that come together to make a complete classic.