Written by Ross Leslie

A film that did for the hospitality industry what Jaws did for paddling pools, Kubrick’s supernatural masterpiece The Shining presents a sinister breed of cinematic horror that still strums a discomforting chord over thirty years after its original release. Jack Nicholson’s infamously unhinged performance as the Overlook Hotel’s winter caretaker, Jack Torrance, is incomparable in its ominous deterioration towards a parental nightmare that, comparatively and somewhat miraculously, makes Kerry Katona look like a responsible human specimen. It is his descent towards an irrepressible psychosis that toys with the fragility of the viewer; as if to transcend the screen until the insidious evil exploits our ill-guarded vulnerability to a near underwear-spoiling extent.

This creepy tale concerns Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and their young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) as they embark on a secluded stint at the Overlook Hotel to ensure its condition is maintained over the harsh winter period before it is reopened for public exploitation. During their protracted and often perilously boring season of incarceration, Jack grapples with lapses of creativity as he tries to write a novel, whilst Danny is inundated with haunting images of the hotel’s past traumas and prophetic visions of the carnage to come through his innate psychic ability to “shine.” As the film’s events transpire, Jack begins to lose his grip on reality and rational control as the evil presence that engulfs the hotel’s interior begins to resonate and expose some terrifying truths about Jack’s distant past.

 

The performances from the film’s three primary cast members are harmoniously balanced as an ensemble at perpetuating the viewer’s intensifying anxiety but as a stand-alone component would be ineffective had it not been combined with Kubrick’s exemplary utilisation of his cinematic environment: the foreboding drifting of the camera’s gaze, as if taken from the perspective of the hotel’s unsavoury, and formally-fleshy, residents and the disjointed camera angles that create a palpable claustrophobia, which render the vast interior of the Overlook to that of a rather cramped matchbox inhabited by Eddie Murphy’s family in The Nutty Professor.

 

Combining these aforementioned elements with others including genre defining set-pieces and the chilling eeriness of the score composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, The Shining is a rare example of a traditional haunted house film whose innovative formulas for evoking terror have yet to be exhausted within a genre littered with dated conventions. In my all too humble opinion, it is the most skilfully crafted and innovative adaptation of a Stephen King horror novel (although respectable competition isn’t exactly queuing down the street), and in the portfolio of one of cinema’s most adaptive and talented visionaries, The Shining is an accomplishment that film audiences to this day simply cannot ‘Overlook.’

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.