Movie Reviews 166 – The Shining (1980)

The ShiningIt’s tough writing a review of The Shining. On the one hand it is undoubtedly a classic horror movie, the result of a collaboration of three of titans of artistry in their respective fields of directing, acting and writing. While many of the scenes are well known, the movie as a whole is confusing at times, does not deliver a concise message, and has an ending that is open to interpretation on many levels. But the movie does not suffer from it’s ambiguous ending and is arguably one of Stanley Kubrick‘s best movies (you can thank me for not citing the obvious “Shining Moment” adjective) adapting Stephen King’s novel of the same name. I would posit that this also constitutes Jack Nicholson’s most memorable oeuvre, notwithstanding many fine moments in other movies.

What cannot be argued is that the movie does not disappoint when it comes to building suspense and thrills. You literally don’t know what’s around the corner as the characters walk, run or drive their bicycles around the corridors of the Overlook Hotel.

Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is a writer looking for some peace and quiet so that he can take a stab at writing his  ‘great American novel’. He drags his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to a remote Colorado mountain top luxury hotel about to shut down for the winter where meager duties in his new job as winter caretaker will allow for plenty of peaceful writing time. As the family is introduced to the departing staff we learn that one of the rooms had a sordid history, and one of the past winter caretakers had Cabin Fever and butchered his family.  Despite that fact that the family will be almost totally isolated once the snow sets in, Jack assures the management not to worry about him and his family.

Along the introductory tour of the hotel Danny also meets up with Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) the hotel cook who immediately senses Danny gift of “Shining” and he telepathically informs Danny of his gift. Danny knows little of his special abilities but he also harbors another dark secret, that of his imaginary friend “Tony” who sometimes communicates with Danny and even takes over his body on occasion.

Jack’s solid grounding quickly starts to show some cracks as he struggles with his writing and forced alcohol abstinence in the hotel. Their only communication to the outside world is a shortwave radio to an emergency operation center to which they can occasionally get outside news and reports. As Jack slowly becomes unhinged and takes out his frustration on his family, he begins having hallucinatory encounters with a bartender in the main ballroom, and his later visit to the room boast a full house of 1920’s garbed ballroom revelers.

Wendy is not the most stable of parents to begin with herself and harbors doubts about Jack, but as his descent into insanity progresses she does her best to protect Danny. Danny himself has strange encounters throughout the hotel with a set of identical twin girls, the lure of room 237 and visions of elevator doors releasing a deluge of blood.

It all culminates with Jack going totally insane and tracking down his family both within the cavernous hotel and in the labyrinthine hedge maze outside. The famous tracking shots of his chase in the nighttime snowy maze were ‘steady cam’ movie firsts, the developer of the cam perfecting the technology on those scenes and the memorable ones of the camera following Danny on his Super Cycle trike as he races along the corridors.

The Shining-corridors

A fine horror thriller on all accounts and the movie that introduced the word “Redrum!” to the modern lexicon.

As fascinating as the movie itself the history of the it’s filming. Aside from the pioneering use of the new steady cam technology I mentioned it featured Shelley Duvall famously locking horns with Kubrick to the point of losing her hair by the anxiety and the fact that little Danny Lloyd was kept from the fact that they were filming a horror movie at all as examples of the memorable aspects. And there is of course the fascinating conspiracy theory that Kubrick used the movie to try to tell the world that the Apollo moon landings were fake and thereby alluding that he really directed the fake footage himself. Look it up.

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