31 Favorites #16: The Shining


Beloved by many a horror fan, maligned by Stephen King (who wrote the novel the film is based on), The Shining is one of those films that's difficult to write about because its cultural impact on the public's consciousness is so enormous. I'm guessing that you've seen it, or at least heard what it's about. But just in case you haven't, let's dig in.

Jack Torrance is a writer who's been offered a job as off-season manager of a big, old, fucked up behemoth of a hotel in the mountains called the Overlook. And it's high up in the mountains and difficult to access at the best of times, but the job offer is to take place during the WINTERTIME. Oh, and Jack is played by the always-terrifying-even-when-doing-comedic-roles, Jack Nicholson. He also decides to take his wife Wendy and young son Danny along.

To say things get messy up at the Overlook Hotel would be an understatement. There's blood pouring from elevators. And spooky dead twins. And bloated bodies in bathtubs. And ghost bartenders who get you drunk on...err...ghost whiskey. Anyway, the whole thing makes Jack straight up murderous. Scatman Cruthers is also in the film, and even he's scary. Yeah, the same guy who sings a song called "Golly, Zonk!" is at Defcon 5 Level Creep Out, going on and on about something called "The Shine" which is basically an ESP-like ability that young Danny Torrance seems to be afflicted with.

So yeah, you could say things don't go well for the Torrance clan in their brand new environs. Jack completely loses it and ends up trying to kill his wife and son.

I love The Shining partially because I love Kubrick, and he brings his amazing eye for details and perfect to this one. His trademark symmetrical shots, normally oozing elegance and grace in films like 2001, seem somehow perfectly off-kilter in this film. Instead of being a place of beauty, the Overlook is an abomination. Its perfection hides a multitude of horrors.

Three Things I Love About It: 

  1. With the exception of Suspiria, perhaps, there's never been a more gorgeously shot horror film. It's filmmaking at its best.
  2. Apprehension in the film is built through things that shouldn't be terrifying. There's a scene where Danny is riding his big wheel through the halls of the hotel, and the sound of his wheels rolling over alternating patches of carpeting and bare floors creates a sort of ticking time bomb. It's a testament to just how high Kubrick is able to ratchet the tension with the mundane.
  3. Dude. Scatman Cruthers.