The Shining (11/9/12)

The ShiningMovie Two Hundred Fifty Five

In The Shining, the winter caretaker of an isolated hotel goes crazy and tries murdering his family.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic, gets a job as the winter caretaker for the sprawling Overlook Hotel in Colorado with the hopes of writing. Despite warnings that the previous caretaker went crazy and murdered his family, Jack will be taking his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny learns that he has telepathic powers from the cook, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), at the Overlook that he calls ‘the shining’ and has visions of horrific things while at the hotel. When isolation in the huge hotel begins to set in, the Overlook begins looking for ways to tempt Jack into murdering his family.

I have left my synopsis of The Shining intentionally vague because I’d like to briefly discuss some of my theories about the film. Spoilers throughout for those of you that haven’t seen the film yet.

I believe that the most important scene in The Shining is when Dick Hallorann is speaking with Danny about the hotel and the shining. One specific thing of note is that he says some buildings can shine just like some people can. During Jack’s initial walk-through of the Overlook, he is told by the Ullman, the manager, that the hotel was built on top of an Indian burial ground. I know King has derided Kubrick’s vision of the film for lacking the motivations for Jack’s insanity (whether or not it is from ghosts/spirits or just from Jack going crazy) but I think it is pretty clear that the Overlook can shine and preys on the weak mind of an abusive alcoholic father that was already on the edge before getting to the hotel. We know there are strong forces at work because *something* lets Jack out of the pantry. While there are obvious tones of dysfunctional relationships in the Torrance family, the Overlook is the catalyst here.

The Shining as Stephen King envisioned it is a ghost story (note – this is just from what I have heard, I am reading the novel now to form my own opinions) and Kubrick turned the story into something more intangible, but there are definitely ghostly things happening. The beauty of The Shining is that it holds mysteries much like the Overlook itself. We do not fully understand what is happening all the time, even after repeat viewings. I know some may see this as a deficiency but I see it as genius, though frustrating at times. While Kubrick obviously had a firm vision of what he wanted, some of his choices are not clear so a little trust must be given that everything serves a purpose in some way.

I cannot write a review of The Shining without spending some time talking about the cinematography, so allow me to get this out of the way. A few years before The Shining, cameras were not really used as handhelds, they were mounted on tripods for stable shots or dollies for tracking, but Garrett Brown came along and invented the Steadicam. The Steadicam uses gyroscopes to allow a camera operator to move but keeps the camera steady. This device allows amazing one-point perspective tracking shots following the actors in close proximity, especially Danny in his big wheel, and gives the viewer a sense of actually following the character. In the vast corridors and rooms of the Overlook, it is truly a work of beauty.

To me, The Shining is a perfect horror movie and its one that completely mesmerized me the first time I watched it and every single time since. It firmly has a place in my top films of all time. The Shining is the film that not only sparked much of motivation to learn more about movies, but it sparked my interest in Stanley Kubrick, my favorite director. The film is just as mystical as the hotel it takes place in and that allure keeps drawing me to The Shining time after time.

I give it 5 “Things could be better, Lloyd. Things could be a whole lot better”s out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


57 responses to “The Shining (11/9/12)

  1. The Shining is incredible and looks beautiful and at notorious attention to detail is rewarding. It’s a film that can be watched over and over and I’m glad to see you finally gave it a look-see. Good review!

  2. Very nicely done, sir. I love this one myself. At one point I championed it for movie of the month on the Lamb and won. I dont often spam in my comments, LOL, but seeing as you express such an affinity for the film – – here’s my take.

    I love it. Glad you point out the revolutionary camerawork, and I, too, think that the incongruities, etc, border on genius. There’s SO much you can read into this movie.

    I want to watch it again now. LOL

  3. Nice that you got to review a favorite. The Shining’s a personal favorite of mine as well and would make my top 15. I’d tie it with Barry Lyndon as my second favorite Kubrick movie with 2001 being number one. Nice review.

  4. Good review Andy. Still a movie that creeps me out to this day and with all good reason, it builds and builds and builds until you have no clue as to what’s going to happen. Kubrick is a guy that should have made more horror-films because with this and Eyes Wide Shut, the gut had a knack for freaky/intense movies.

  5. One of my top 3 horror movies of all time (the others being Alien and Jaws), no Stephen King adaptation has even come close to this for me. Great review, and love the retro poster 😀

  6. Great review Andy. I’ve probably spent more time reading about The Shining than any other film. I can’t wait to check out the Room 237 documentary. You can read into it as much or as little as you like and still take so much from it. One of my favourite films, hands down.

    • I’m anxiously awaiting that doc. as well, though I don’t expect to glean much from it. I love how open it is to interpretation yet still has a very clear path it takes. Definitely one of my favorites as well.

  7. Great review Andy, I’ll always be torn by The Shining. Kubrick’s casting of Nicholson and Duvall always bothered me. I read the book first and to be honest neither of them look or act like Danny’s parents do in the book. Of course the biggest argument of all is the fact that no-one would have hired the film’s Jack because he was obviously too “out-there” to begin with.

    Don’t get me wrong, the film is scary and works well, but it ain’t King’s The Shining (as it was advertised when the movie came out) it has his characters sure but the other thing I could never forgive Kubrick for was SPOILER killing Halloran. That, to me, was totally unforgivable and too much of a deviation from the book. Sort of the straw that broke the camels back if you will. 😀

  8. Apparently this took a while to earn the praise it deserved. On one hand, I just don’t see that. On the other, I’m glad it did meet that praise, eventually. Glad you agree it’s a fantastic horror movie, just as your review was a fantastic one.

  9. To me this is the all-time horror movie of all time. And your review did it justice. I like the history behind the camerawork as well. I’m in no way knowlegable about it, but as a lover of movies, I always love getting educated on things in this regard.

  10. This is definitely one of the greatest horror movies out there. I love it AND I loved the book (despite the differences) and I’m pretty sure that’s one of the only times that’s happened.

  11. That’s why Kubrick is a genius, he makes you think about it, not just for 10 minutes after the viewing, but for years. I love Stephen King, I’ve read all his books, but Kubrick’s version is much better.

    I like that you refer to the film as perfect because I would have to agree with you 100%.

  12. i’m holding off on seeing the film until you finish the book, this way i can find out which i should do first – book or movie – according to you.

  13. Fantastic review, Andy! You already know my feelings on the film. I also think it’s superb. Just looking at Rich’s comment, I am feeling inspired to give the book another shot. I’m a firm believer that the timing should be right when you read a book. I just don’t think I’ve been ready in the past… know what I mean?

    The shots of the film are wonderful. The panning of the camera across the landscape really heightens the sense of remoteness and vastness of the area. The party scenes are incredibly eerie. Really haunting. And then the silence as the lift doors open and the blood cascades… There’s so much to love about this film. Shelley Duvall’s acting scares me a little… 😉

    • I do know what you mean, I was stuck in the same situation with this book (and several other King books…why are they all so long?!)

      I have a huge admiration for Shelley Duvall after watching the film 3 Women. To the point where it changed the way I look at Wendy in The Shining.

      • I have never even heard of 3 Women – who are the other 2? 😉 I will definitely look out for this.

        You’re right. I have no idea why the books are so long… I think it’s about time for me to start reading a new one. It’s been far too long since I’ve read one. I do have his latest, started it and then put it down. Big mistake, I’ll probably have to go back to page 1. Do you have a favourite SK book? 🙂

  14. One of my all time favorite movies. In my top 3. the camera work in this movie is amazing. I’m able to separate my love of the novel, with my love of the book. They are both totally different, but each is brilliant. I could talk about the Shining all day, but I’ll just say great review Andy

  15. Pingback: My November Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s