Dir. Stanley Kubrick (1980)
Jack Torrance suffers the worst case of writer’s block in history but manages to solve it pretty easily.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s most ambitious work, seeking to transcribe one of the best horror books ever written into film. Results are mixed to be sure, as his film does not compare to the book in any way, but it manages to become a masterpiece in its own right. Filled with sprawling shots of empty hallways and freaky hotel rooms, Kubrick skillfully turns perception on its head by making a huge hotel seem somehow claustrophobic. He utilized rampant misogyny and probably child abuse to get the best from his actors, but boy does it work! Seriously, more people should just not at all consider the feelings of others when working on their art, it’s clearly only has good side effects.
Jack Nicholson is a tour de force in this film, giving the best performance of his career in a career full of amazing performances. He’s not a terrifying man by any stretch, and even though he comes off like an asshole in most of his work, he can apparently become the menacing face of death if he damn well pleases. Danny Lloyd basically never worked again after this movie because he put an entire career’s worth of good acting into portraying a child with a weird-ass gift, and Scatman Crothers, the most unfortunately named actor in the business, is just delightful. Shelley Duvall, however, almost ruins the movie because she’s annoying as fuck. Don’t get me wrong, she plays “terrified mother who knows that her husband is about to kill her and her child” very well, but holy hell she’s grating on the nerves.
The world's worst music director.
Just, like, stop screaming and run. Stop opening your mouth in abject horror and get the fuck out of there, you dumbass. Yes, run to the maze. That’s what you should do, run to the mysterious place that you don’t know how to escape from in the dead of winter. Goddamnit, I’m started to understand why Kubrick apparently hated her. But, irritating actress aside, The Shining does an excellent job of just being fucking unsettling. It’s not scary, for the most part, and most people aren’t going to come away from this one afraid, but there’s just something off about a lot of the film. Obviously the lady in the bathtub and the weird furry scene leave a lot of people unnerved, and the twins in the hallway is one of the scarier scenes in movie history, but the entire thing just feels like a bizarre mirror world. From the repetitively nauseating hallway pattern to the liminal doorways lining the hallway itself, the Overlook just feels like a place you’ve been before and never want to go again.
I pooped somewhere on the carpet. Bet you can't find it.
The Shining is always seen as beyond horror, and it’s more in the discussions about the best American films ever than it is in the best horror films ever. This is a wonderful thing for the genre because it elevates it beyond the limits most people apply to it, but its also been such an influence to current horror filmmakers who both grew up on Stephen King and movies in general. You can see shades of The Shining in films all over the gamut of horror, from the bleak and isolating set design of Black Mountain Side to the, uh… bleak and isolating Midsommar. The “alone on an island with a bunch of weirdos” trope should be a genre unto itself, and The Shining fits as much into folk horror as the rest of these movies. It’s a haunted house tale at its core, but it is at the same time so much deeper than that. That’s what you get when you give a literal genius direction of a horror movie: a movie that surpasses the genre, and, in some ways, film itself.
Who this film is for: Americans, damnit!, Stephen King lovers, People who haven’t read the book because they hate reading and enjoying life
Bottom line: I mean, it’s an all-time classic film, much less horror film. If you haven’t seen it, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back until you do. But of course you’ve seen it, everyone has seen it. It’s a classic for a reason, and Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick are those reasons.