This months Film Club is a suittably scary edition as Natasha from the excellent Films and Things chose Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Read on as we dissect the classic 1980 horror.
Films and Things:
Ah The Shining, where do I start?
Undoubtedly one of the best horror films of all time, even if Stephen King himself wasn’t a fan. The Shining has acted as inspiration for many horror films and TV shows since and is regularly referenced in everything from animated TV shows to Oreo Vines.
Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining is probably his most iconic, with ‘Heeeeere’s Jonny!’ being a famous line that pretty much everyone has heard somewhere and although the film shows its age it’s still suitably creepy even now. A lot of 80s horror films stand as iconic movies even today, and are arguably some of the best.
The only issue I have with The Shining is Danny. Danny and his weird finger and his ‘redrum’ is excruciatingly irritating, much like most children in horror films who usually serve as just a frustrating hindrance to the characters we actually care about. Of course, Danny is a huge part of The Shining, both the book and the film, and can’t be avoided but there is just something so annoying about him that it almost ruins the film in several places. Thank goodness, therefore, for Jack Nicholson who is absolutely incredible as the troubled Jack Torrance and manages to transform into a terrifying killer flawlessly.
Stephen King’s novels are some of the most unique and original horror stories so really much of the credit has to go to him for the story. Despite what some may think I am a fan of both the book and the film and don’t feel particularly strongly about one or the other; I actually think the film does the story justice.
As much as I love the films originality though there is something that has always hindered my enjoyment of it and that’s how confusing it is. Danny has this ‘shining’ and there’s so much going on that it does get very convoluted. There’s a lot of weird imagery that doesn’t get the explanation that it gets in the book and when I first watched it I wasn’t familiar with the story. Things get very weird very quickly and Jack Torrance’s character changes and becomes all kinds of bizarre. That’s part of the magic of it but it is slightly confusing.
Stanley Kubrick brings an already brilliant horror story to life in a very creative and ultimately very creepy way. It’s one of the best horror films of all time and easily one of the most iconic. Why can’t modern horrors be as creative as the ones from the 80s?!
Since I am not a fan of films from the horror genre, I steered clear away from this one for years.
Ironically, I have always immensely enjoyed reading Stephen King novels, but mostly have stuck to the non-horror and the supernatural ones. I have heard for years how amazing this movie is and I must say that I just don’t get what everyone thinks is so extraordinary about this one.
I like the premise here, but I just don’t think the story is done well enough. Is this a movie about a man’s slow descent into insanity or is it about a family terrorized by supernatural occurrences in an abandoned hotel? It is completely unclear.
It is no secret that Stephen King himself despised this movie and ended up making his own version in 1997 which doesn’t leave out many parts of the original novel especially the blatant supernatural elements so essential to the story.
There are too many things left unexplained in this movie that can either leave the viewer with a ton of “food for thought” afterwards or leave the viewer totally baffled as to why many things happened. I fall into that latter category.
Director Stanley Kubrick is known for his perfectionism and for his tendency for not explaining his movies to the viewers and I think in this case it
once again is to his detriment (as I also thought happened with A Clockwork Orange (1971), which he made a decade earlier. Jack Nicholson is always great as a crazy man and does a good job of it here again.
I think if this movie would have stuck to the original story written by Stephen King it would have been much better. I don’t regret seeing this, but I also don’t have any intention of seeing it
Silver Screen Serenade:
Ah, The Shining. This one will always be one of my favourites for this time of year. Kudos to Natasha for picking it out! There’s just something about Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic that works so well for me.
The Shining may not be knock-your-socks-off scary, but I love that it is constantly creepy and tense. Don’t get me wrong—there are certainly a few “woah” moments (i.e. room 237 and that typewriter scene) that provide powerful punches throughout the film, but the atmosphere is what really makes the film great. The isolated hotel and growing tension in the Torrance family make the film completely gripping.
Aside from the atmosphere, let’s be real: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance is what carries this movie. His gradual descent into absolute crazy town is mesmerizing and horrifying to see, and when his wife (Shelley Duvall) realizes exactly what he’s become…Well, you’re pretty much constantly on edge from there. And poor, sweet little Danny (Danny Lloyd)! It’s impossible not to feel for him in this. Plus, the presence of a kid, of course, raises the stakes that much higher.
Admittedly, there are a few tiny things to pick on. Kubrick had to practically terrorize Duvall to get a solid performance out of her, and even that might not have been enough because she’s not always great. And at one point, the film reaches a trippy level of weirdness that is kind of hard to follow. Plus, King apparently hated this film, and I can understand why—it’s different from his novel. In the novel, Jack is actually painted in a much less sinister light, and you sympathize with him. Kubrick’s version of him…not so much. Honestly, I have no problem with Kubrick’s interpretation of King’s material, and I might actually prefer it slightly to the novel. Although I am a little biased since I saw the film first.
Regardless of its flaws, I quite like The Shining. For me, it’s kind of synonymous with Halloween. So I’m glad I got to talk about it! 😀
HC Movie Reviews:
I was very happy with this month’s choice; The Shining is a film I’ve always meant to explore. However, it’s also one that I felt I’d seen without ever watching. As a result of numerous references and parodies since its release, none less that The Simpsons Tree House of Horror ‘The Shinning’ episode, I kind of thought that I’d seen most of the iconic moments. To my surprise there were even more fantastic moments in Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film than I ever could have imagined.
There are so many wonderful things about this film. From the get go The Shining is a very creepy affair and it never really lets up. I loved how it managed to make completely normal things incredibly ominous, none more so that that initial drive to the Overlook Hotel. This is largely made possible by the chilling score that is present throughout much of the film. However, undoubtedly the creepiest thing about the film is the performance by Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is incredible from start to finish and the film is at its most entertaining when his character Jack Torrance is on the rampage. The dialogue that his character is given is insane and it’s matched by the insanity of Nicholson’s performance, something I’m not sure many other actors could pull off. The way Jack Torrance is brought to life by Nicholson is the reason that The Shining is such a success.
There is more to enjoy here though as the story is told in such a great way through the inclusion of so many great moments. Even if you haven’t seen The Shining you’ll know what I’m talking about but as I’ve already mentioned there are even more moments like this than expected, my personal favourite being that ‘redrum’ moment, I’ll say no more. The film can be ambiguous at points too and there are many different interpretations of different moments in the movie, I love the debate and discussion that the film provokes. This only adds to the already lasting impression that the film will leave on you.
Whilst I loved the movie and couldn’t praise certain elements enough I did have a few issues with it. Firstly, I never really bought the characters as a family unit. Maybe this is intentional as to act as a precursor to the events at the Overlook Hotel. Although, what I think would have been more terrifying would have been seeing the demise of a close knit family. Alongside this issue came another which surprised me, Kubrick often took away from the fantastic tension and atmosphere he had created with certain techniques. For example the passing of time is documented throughout the film but I found it quite silly towards the end of the film when the word ‘TUESDAY’ would just flash up on screen, I didn’t think it was necessary and for me took me out of the events of the film. One other criticism that I had was a shot towards the end of the film, again I found this contrasting to the tone of the film as it just seemed silly and over the top.
Nonetheless, these minor issues I had with the film ultimately have next to no impact on my overall enjoyment. Stanley Kubrick has brilliantly brought this story to the screen and it’s going to be enjoyed for years to come. I think I’ve found my new favourite horror movie.
Stanley Kubrick’s films always rank highly on the list of craziest movies I’ve ever seen. I think David Lynch and a few others nudge him out based on pure bizarrness but Kubrick’s films trump the others on quality. The Shining is one of Kubrick’s best (and one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s stories, even if the author disagrees). Kubrick uses King’s story as a launch pad to explore issues of individuality, isolation, abuse and whether or not you should accept free drinks from phantom bartenders.
Each cast member is excellent in their roles. Jack Nicholson portrays insanity probably better than any other actor (especially this brand of unhinged character). Brad Pitt’s performance in Twelve Monkeys as patient Jeffrey Goines was another phenomenal piece of acting which stands somewhat apart from Nicholson’s troubled writer. Like Nicholson, Shelley Duvall plays a duality of emotions, transforming from cheerful and maternal at the beginning to frantic and frazzled by the end. You can easily buy into/in to her terror. From her screams to even the way she holds that kitchen knife in the bathroom scene. The rest of the cast fill in their roles nicely including Danny Lloyd as the odd child of Jack and Shelly.
One of the amazing legacies of Kubrick is the intense academic investigations people pour into his films. The documentary Room 237 showcases many of the theories behind The Shining including the movie as a commentary on sexual abuse, on the Holocaust, on the victimization of the native people of the US. and even on the supposed faking and subsequent cover-up of the Moon landing.
This approach to Kubrick always reminds me of the South Park episode about 9/11. In that episode it is revealed that all the conspiracy theories which posit that George Bush planned the 9/11 attacks were actually propagated by Bush himself as a way of convincing the public that he actually has enough power to create such a conspiracy. Maybe Kubrick funded the initial push to dissect his movies? Probably not… but maybe? Without a doubt he left enough ambiguity and symbolism in his movies to allow for later contemplation (but maybe a documentary about the Moon landing is a little much).
Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger:
The Shining is a horror classic for sure. While panned by critics when it originally came out, it seems the consensus has changed dramatically over the years. Jack Nicholson was in fine form for this film, though something was a little off about him from the beginning. However, embracing the insanity of the Overlook Hotel was perfection – he was crazy and gave every indication he had completely lost the plot, and his antics got out of hand as the movie progresses. Duvall’s Wendy may have come off as a little too timid and weak, but she did exactly what she needed to, and ultimately did contribute to the story. Danny Lloyd was perfectly creepy as little Danny Torrance, with his weird ability. I was a real fan of the way that each character had a different perception and emotion about the hotel that they were staying in over that winter break.
Kubrick created a damn fine piece of cinema that, while deviating from the book, is exceptional in its own right. The film is shot very well, and there are so many scenes that are masterfully crafted and executed and the atmosphere keeps you riveted throughout. The score, too, is something to be mentioned as it constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat, making you feel that doom is imminent, never giving you a break from the sense of dread that it garners. The Shining is a movie with a solid fan base for a reason, and it is damn fine October viewing for sure.
What About the Twinkie:
Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining is a film so varied and with such depth that it is not just a classic horror film, but a classic film in any genre. It’s descent into madness is as visually and mentally disturbing as it is hypnotic, and is prepared by Kubrick with a surgical detail. Symmetry plays a large part in The Shining, and their are many theories surrounding Kubrick’s ideas that the more you look, the more far fetched they all get. It’s fascinting to look at and even more fascinating to find out how much some people will look into a film for hidden meaning and depth.
Take The Shining for what it is though, and you have a film that is as much a supernatral horror as it is a psychological horror. Kubrick blends both worlds and what may seem contradictory makes sense in the end, sort of. The Shining does not make perfect sense, and nor should it, and instead succeeds in its madess in a way that few other films would be able to accomplish. The Shining is not perfect, although conspiracy theorists may argue otherwise, but it is a shining (sorry) example of a director excelling at a genre that many would not associate him with. Recommended viewing.
Last time I watched The Shining was at the New York Summer Film Festival in Bryant Park. Ahh, I fucking miss NY! There was a massive screen placed in the center of the park, which definitely helped increasing the fear factor. I remember people enthusiastically whistling and clapping when Jack brutally axed down the door, shouting “Here’s Johnnie”. People brought food, drinks, and even their kids, goodness… who brings a kid to a film like The Shining??? It’s not exactly the perfect family hang-out, is it? Exposing the fruit of your loins to a masterpiece like this may seem culturally educating and cool, however, somewhat disturbing. Don’t be surprised if your kid starts seeing things and imagine a little boy named Tony who hides in his mouth…
Horror stories occurring in hotels are the best! The Overlook Hotel looks like a beautiful crime free resort, populated with staff and vacationers getting ready to vacate the premises due to the upcoming winter season. Once empty, the Overlook becomes abandoned and creepy. Its tortuous corridors and halls make it look like a giant maze, or a ghost ship, as Mrs. Torrance calls it.
As in many horror films, The Shining’s also followed by eerie musical compositions meant to accentuate the terrifying atmosphere of the hotel and of the deterioration of events. Brilliantly based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name (film version slightly altered), it really doesn’t take much to unnerve you. It’s enough to watch angry Jack aimlessly strolling around the hotel, while a creepy 1920’s ballroom music bursting out from somewhere to put you in a real suspense.
Jack Nicholson has the face of a real crazy son of a bitch. From the very beginning his character, Jack Torrance, seems a little off. He’s sinister smile and confident attitude during his interview with the hotel manager suggests there’s a solid ground for madness in this man’s mind. Jack Torrance is not your usual loving family man. He’s constantly impatient towards his wife and son, and whenever interrupted while writing, seems violently annoyed, “Good. Now why don’t you start right now and get the fuck out of here? Hm?”
Wendy Torrance, played by Shelly Duvall, has perfect facial expressions that mirror her thoughts & fears perfectly throughout the film. She’s first presented as submissive, subjected to her dominant husband’s caprices. Her main strength is being extremely protective of her “shining” son, Danny, who seems to know exactly what’s going to happen, being blessed with psychic abilities and all.
Other than Nicholson and Duvall (him looking like a madman and her looking like the morbid computer game character, Alice in Horror Land), the film’s well equipped with exceptionally mysteriously grim characters; Grady, the murderous butler, Lloyd, the ghostly Bartender, the creepy Grady Twins, and the old woman in the bath-tub.
The Shining is by far the best horror film I have ever seen. It is, and I quote, “widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made” (Wikipedia).
The Shining is highly credited for its creative spooking abilities, sinister soundtrack and characters, and location, location, location, and rightly so!
Film Club Rating: 8.4/10
General consensus: The Shining may have faults, but they are few. And Kubrick has crafted a film so layered that audiences will find something new after each viewing.