10:00 am EDT, October 10, 2011

John’s Horror Movie Review: ‘The Shining’

Today, I am starting my Horror Movie Review series here on Hypable with an all time classic: The Shining.

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As I mentioned in the introductory post, I am not a scary movies kind of guy. I avoid them at all costs, and usually make other plans when my friends invite me over to watch them. Yes, I admit it. I’m a scaredy cat. I’ve taken quite a few film classes in college and really love film in general. In an effort to educate myself on the one genre I have yet to tackle, and to get in the Halloween spirit, I am sharing my thoughts and critical film eye with all of you awesome Hypable readers!

So, let’s get right to The Shining. Going in to this movie, all I knew is that it was a classic and that one of my favorite directors, Stanley Kubrick, directed it. However I had never seen this film in my adult life.

In short, I really really really liked this movie. The cinematography alone made it one of my favorite films. One scene I particularly loved was when Danny was riding his bike all through the hotel. It filmed from a low-to-the-ground perspective, which almost made you feel like you were riding along with him. Not to mention the sound of him riding from the hard wood floors to the carpet, made the scene really true-to-life. There was just something about the cadence of the bike going on and off of the carpet that made his sudden stopping in horror that much scarier. A brilliant direction from Kubrick. Another scene that stands out is when Jack gets locked in the freezer and he’s negotiating his release with Wendy. The scene is shot from the floor up, showcasing Jack’s psychotic looks and emotions as he bangs on the door in hopes of getting out. All of these scenes married with the perfectly placed splashes of color, the association of space within the shot (particularly Jack’s work space at the table symbolizing his isolation), and the brilliant acting on everyone’s part, made this movie a case study cinematography and film making.

Jack Nicholson was absolutely amazing as the insane Jack Torrance. One scene that really sticks out for me is when Danny went up to the room to get his fire engine truck only to walk in on Jack sitting on his bed staring out of the window. It leaves the viewer wondering not only what he’s thinking but how long he has been sitting there – both of which are scary in their own rights.

Shelley Duvall as Jack’s wife Wendy is equally convincing. You feel bad for her, and hope she will find a way out. To me, she was the incarnation of us as viewers. The scene where she climbs the stairs backwards swatting the bat at Jack as he says he’s going to “bash [her] brains out” was pretty intense and amazing as well. You really feel, hear, and see exactly how terrified she is.

At first, I thought Jack’s scenes with the ghosts at the bar and in The Cold Room were representations of his inner dialogue. He would rationalize his abuse of Danny out loud while the bartender looked on – feeding his alcoholism. We would later find out that this was actually a haunting within the hotel itself. Either way each of these scenes, including the bathtub scene, were fascinating to watch and try to figure out. There was an essence of mystery that was not only interesting but chillingly haunting as well.

Ultimately, the movie ends with a zoom in of one of the many black and white photos that line the hotel walls. At first, you see that the photo we’re seeing is from a July 4th party at the hotel in 1921, several years before the movie takes place. But upon further zooming, you see what appears to be Jack Torrence in the foreground smiling. To me, I took this as the character and haunted spirit of this man reincarnated over and over again who ultimately ended up back at this hotel, which is frightening without actually being frightening.

If I have one gripe with this movie it’s that I want to know more about what exactly the ‘shining’ is. Danny and the older man Holloran share the ability to connect with each other, but where does it come from? Obviously, I know that revealing this within the movie would have created a whole separate story line, but I guess that’s just the sci-fi lover in me!

As a self-proclaimed horror movie wimp, it may surprise you to know that I now consider The Shining to be one of my favorite films. The DVD comes with a documentary by Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Vivian Kubrick, detailing some very intimate moments on the set as they filmed. My friends and I watched this after the movie was over, and it made my love and respect for the film, the director and the actors that much greater. I highly suggest watching the documentary as well.

What made this movie such an amazing horror movie is that is scared you in untraditional ways. There wasn’t a face popping out at you, there wasn’t loud obnoxious music, there weren’t cheesy sound effects – it was all situational and truly terrifying. Kubrick made the viewer wonder and think about what was happening within this abandoned hotel while Jack Torrance goes slowly by surely insane. Modern day horror films still struggle with this concept which is why The Shining will and has gone down in history as one of the best horror movies ever made.

Fun Facts about The Shining:

  • In the book, the room in which the murders took place was room 217, but the hotel where the film was shot asked that they change it to the non-existent room number 237 in fear that future guests wouldn’t want to stay in room 217.
  • In the book, hedge animals come to life, but Kubrick decided not to make this a part of the movie due to complications with special effects so he went with a hedge maze instead.
  • Robert De Niro and Robin Williams were also considered for the role of Jack, but Kubrick didn’t think De Niro would be psychotic enough and Williams would be ‘too psychotic.’
  • According to Stephen King, the author of the novel the movie was made from, the term ‘the shining’ is inspired by the refrain from the Plastic Ono Band’s song “Instant Karma” where the chorus reads: “We all shine on.”

Have you seen The Shining? What are your thoughts

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