Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a cold, disturbing masterpiece. This is a beautifully-made, utterly frightening horror film for adults, an epic ghost story for the modern age.
Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, a former teacher and aspiring author who agrees to become the winter caretaker for the ominous Overlook Hotel, deep in the snow-capped mountains of Colorado. He arrives, along with wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) just as the rest of the hotel is vacating. The only one with any contact is the cook, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers), and he spends a good portion of the running time off-screen and/or in Florida on vacation. It is Halloran who gives the film its namesake; “the shining” is what he calls the apparent psychic connection that he and Danny have. Meanwhile, the Overlook has an eerie history: there was a fire several decades back and a horrific axe murder as well. Add to this the creepy bush maze that becomes a neverending labyrinthe in the film’s final scenes, and you have a place nobody in their right mind would want to visit; and if you visit, you won’t be in your right mind for long. Soon, Jack, a formerly abusive alcoholic, seems overtaken by the “spirit” of the demons unloosed in the hotel, his wife is petrified out of her wits, and their young son seems to be retreating into an alternate personality – that of an invisible friend called Tony he says lives in his mouth. Kubrick, who co-adapted the novel by Stephen King, has created an intense, haunting, profoundly unsettling film made of appalling sights and creepy overtones. His cameras roam the hallways of the hotel, giving a profound sense of mounting dread. King objected to Kubrick’s adaptation so much so that he went on to make his own TV mini-series version in the late 1990’s; this is the definitive version of this story. Nicholson gives a strong performance as the imperfect father and husband who becomes mad in this place; Duvall is mostly asked to scream, run and cry a lot, but is affecting as the all-but-helpless spouse. Kubrick was an obsessive-compulsive taskmaster and an exacting visual stylist, often asking for 50 or more takes of a single shot – which explains why his films took so long to shoot. Here, he has gathered a small top-notch ensemble cast and painted a portrait of madness, supernatural horror and the decline of a family like has never been seen before. One of the best films of the decade!