Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ was a film of firsts for me. It was the first movie that made me love the horror genre. It was the first Kubrick film I ever saw, and the aura that surrounds him, the person, has made Kubrick my favorite director in the last couple of years. This was also the first film I saw that had Jack Nicholson (I hadn’t seen Batman at the time). I, and I think many other people as well, consider ‘The Shining’ a horror masterpiece. Even though Stephen King will disagree with that statement and the film wasn’t well received at first, it has stood the test of time as well as it can.
The film follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) as he becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.
This film is a big one, in terms of analyzing and different metaphors. There is even a hidden moon landing conspiracy in this film, but I won’t focus on that. I will be focusing on simple things such as what I enjoyed, what I didn’t enjoy (one small thing), and my final thoughts on where ‘The Shining’ stands in general. Before you start reading you should know this, if you haven’t seen this film, what are you waiting for? It’s Halloween! I am going to a screening for this film in a theater and I can’t wait to see it, even though I’ve seen it WAY too many times.
As I said, this was my introduction to Jack Nicholson and man, what a way to get started. He plays brilliantly the downfall of Jack Torrance. A gripe Stephen King had with the film was that when you look at Nicholson, you instantly think he’s crazy and that wouldn’t work for the downfall of Torrence. I think it works really well because Nicholson plays it beautifully. It truly is one of the best performances out there, and to know that the famous “Hereeeeees Johnny” line was improvised just makes it better. My favorite parts of this performance is when Jack is at the Bar and goes into the bathroom with Charles Grady.
These scenes are so brilliantly directed and written by Kubrick, as well as some stellar acting. This is the case with the whole film, especially the hallway tricycle scene. Kubrick takes an approach that really works for this film, whether it be panning into Nicholson’s face with the score blasting, the camera work he used (you should definetly check out the documentary on youtube if you can), and the 127 or so takes it took for the staircase scene (yes, 127 or more takes were done). This is were my only gripe comes in, with Shelley Duval’s performance.
While Danny Lloyd steals the show in what can be considered one of, if not, the best child actor performance ever, there’s always been something about Duval’s performance. Whether it be her line delivery or the performance itself, there’s always been something about it. Lately I’ve grown to enjoy her performance more and more, but it still bothers me a little.
In the end, ‘The Shining’ is a horror masterpiece and another Kubrick classic. From it’s great performances, stellar writing and directing, and overall cinematic value, it’s just a great film to watch at any time, not just Halloween.