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The Shining

1980 horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick

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Paste Lame Shine Pun Here

  • Oct 31, 2002
Pros: Jack Nicholson is one of the world's great psycho actors

Cons: May make you paranoid

The Bottom Line: Here's Johnny! I love that.

Just what do you think of when you think of a haunted house? The stereotypical haunted house is little more than a large shack, very loosely boarded up with rotting wood, creaking floorboards and stairs, loose doors and a massive maze of codwebs. The ghosts that often haunt these places are your typical clothing sheet, screaming phantom variety and perhaps a few creepy, kooky and altogether ooky... Well, things that just seem a wee bit out of place. Like a crawling hand.

It's surprising that when people think about haunted places, they don't think of hotels more often. The possibilities of the eerie things that could go on in a haunted hotel are freakin' near limitless! All those rooms, those big play areas, the XXXXL sized kitchens, room service, ballrooms and the like would make any hotel a big funhouse for a party of ghosts who are in a particularly prankish or nasty mood. And that's exactly what Stephen King had in mind when he cooked up a story about an old hotel in the middle of nowhere and a winter caretaker who went mad and tried to kill his family because of the ghosts.

Well, this review isn't about the book, it's about the movie that claimed to be based on it back in 1981 or so. I say claimed because, besides the basic plot and character names, the movie twisted and destroyed so much of the book that Stephen King made it his personal mission in life to see to it that the movie failed and that the reputation of its director, Stanley Kubrick, was tainted. If it had been anyone other than Kubrick, King might have suceeded. But if it had been anyone other than Kubrick, I would probably be writing about how much this movie sucked, if I would even be writing about it at all.

King's biggest problem with the movie was the portrayal of its main character, Jack Torrence. In the book, Torrence was a good, regular nice guy, a recovering alcoholic and former abuser of wife and child who took a job at the Overlook hotel so he could start that aspect of his life over again and get some time to work on his play. That a guy so determined to stay straight would go so insane was something unexpected. In the movie, though, Torrence is portrayed by Jack Nicholson, a brilliant actor who pulled off an Oscar worthy performance, but a guy who's portrayed so many psychos that you always expect him to do something. Well, everyone already knew that the main character was gonna go mad, and we see that mad glare in Nicholson's eye even in the very beginning when he mentions the fact that his son, Danny, is getting smart off the TV. So when the big moment finally arrives and he shows up at his work station where his wife is reading his novel (All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy written on every page, as both script and dialogue) with the intention of pounding her into oblivion, we kind of just shrug and say 'eh'.

For the benefit of the two or three people who have neither seen the movie or read the book, I'll give the quick rundown of the plot: Jack Torrence gets a job, working as the winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel in Colorado. Since he has a wife, Wendy, and a son, Danny, they'll be up there keeping him company for the winter. Now little Danny is a special kid, he has a power that the hotel's lead cook (who also posesses the power) calls the shining, a telepathy that enables him to communicate with other people, and a guardian named Tobey. Upon the family's first tour of the Overlook, the administrator of the hotel doesn't fail to mention the hotel's colorful background: It was built on an old Indian buriel ground, and the last winter caretaker had gone crazy and murdered his family. What he doesn't know, though, is that the ghosts haunting the place want to be free to run amok, and the only way they can do that is by whacking poor Danny. So once everyone leaves the place and winter sets in, the ghosts begin a massive campaign to make Jack crazy enough to kill Danny, and they do that by providing him with all his favorite temptations. Eventually Jack gives in and starts chasing his family around the hotel with an axe, and he doesn't intend to use it for chopping wood.

Guy chases people with axe-you're thinking typical slasher flick, except without killing, right? Well, surprise, surprise... No. Although the axe is admittedly cliche by now, this is a Stanley Kubrick film, so we can expect something a little offbeat. Kubrick respects us enough to know not to try to fool us with any cheap shots. Not once does Jack creep up on Wendy or Danny so silently that we don't hear him or see him, then the character turns around and sees him standing there, maniacal grin right in place. Not once does Kubrick try to fool us with a cheap noise like a yowling cat or creaking stair. No, what scares you about The Shining is the total absence of those things. We see Jack, limping in his unstoppable madness, the whole time he chases his family around the hotel. We see him do all his creeping. What's really scary about The Shining is the fact that we have two good characters trapped in the hotel with this madman, but they can't escape because it's winter and the snow is piled all the way up to the third floor, trapping them in.

Adding to the atmosphere are the tracking and still shots that Kubrick used, having become almost posessed himself by the kinds of beautiful, smooth shots that a new kind of camera that came out at the time was capable of. It somehow seems fitting for Jack's madness to be symbolized by these kinds of shots. Probably because everything else was so calm and peaceful looking and Jack was the only shaky thing in the picture.

All credit for making the movie memorable goes to Jack Nicholson here. Yeah, we know from the very beginning that he's gonna go over the cliff, but when he finally does, he makes quite a spectacle out of it. He starts out by just thinking he's seeing things, but when he walks up to the ballroom bar one day for a bit of fantasy drinking between him and an imaginary bartender, it turns out that the bartender isn't so imaginary after all. The bartender is just another ghost, but the alcohol he's serving up is very real indeed. And so Jack drinks up to the point that any idea immediatly suggested is worth doing, and that first suggested idea is to kill his family. When Jack finally gets his hands on the axe, he really loses it, and drunken Jack seems to disappear in place of insane Jack, who chases Wendy and Danny around while spouting fairy tales, which brings him to the very peak of insanity when he chops out a door panel, peeks in and crazily announces: HEEERRRE"S JOHNNY!!!

While the ghosts are enticing Jack, they're also doing everything they can to make Wendy and Danny aware of their existance by popping in occaisionally. Wendy slowly begins to get scared, and you slowly begin to get annoyed by her. Wendy in the movie, as portrayed by Shelley Duvall, is convincing as she merely progresses from whiny to scared and whiny. She doesn't have the calm strength that Wendy in the book has even when she's trapped, and you'll get fed up with her after awhile. And Danny is portrayed by some kid whose name I don't know, but he's good, holding the neccesary conversations between him and Tobey with a strangely calm attitude. He gives the best child performance in a horror movie this side of Haley Joel Osmont's in The Sixth Sense.

Wanna laugh your head off on Halloween? Rent a slasher flick, a genre so overdone that's it's gone even beyond spoofing itself and turned into something just plain bad. Want a girl to get close and hold you without having to go through all the troubles of romance? Rent The Shining and she'll never let go of you again.


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March 11, 2013
your movie reviews are almost as good as your sports write ups. Did you see the mini series based on the book? More faithful but this was more powerful
March 13, 2013
Yeah, the mini-series is actually what inspired me to read the book, just because that and the movie are so different.
More The Shining (1980 movie) reviews
review by . October 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Some of the best films are the ones which provoke us to return to their often questionable realms for a second coming, not long after we've tried to - or succeeded in - absorb every last bit of information that we possibly can. Perhaps we come back because we still have questions left unanswered, or maybe we just want to experience it all again. The places that I speak of are sometimes pleasant (the beach resort of "Mr. Hulot's Holiday"), and other times …
Quick Tip by . March 09, 2013
Shot for the title sequence of Stanley Kubrick's film adaption of The Shining, supererogatory footage of Montana's Glacier National Park was subsequently exploited by Ridley Scott to supplement the denouement of Blade Runner's theatrical cut. Actor Joe Turkel plays important roles in both pictures. Featured prominently in The Shining, Scatman Crothers had previously portrayed an orderly named Turkle in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, twice co-starring with leading man Jack Nicholson. …
Quick Tip by . January 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
While I still haven't chosen which Kubrick movie is my favorite, The Shining is easily one of my favorite movies ever.  Since I'm not one that's easy to scare, this movie is one of the extremely rare specimens that'll haunt me when I go to bed after watching it.  Even though all the acting is top-notch, it's Jack Nicholson that stole the show in this one because he was PERFECT as the isolated man on a descent into total madness.      Thanks to this …
review by . March 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An excersie in what isolation can do to the mind...
They say that sometimes when a person is isolated from other people  or things he or she is familiar  with  you start to slowly loose your mind, you start seeing things  that  aren't real, hearing voices in your head, walking nightmares. It is called Cabin Fever and In Stanley Kubrick's psychological horror thriller explores what happens when a recovering alcoholic ex-teacher (Jack Nicholson) starts to literally loose his mind   when isolated in a beautiful hotel …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Kubrick's classic adaption of Steven King's classic horror novel is errie and amazing to watch. Strays far from the source material in some places and drags on in scenes but it does help add to the tension of a family taking care of a mountain hotel and the father slowly going insane.
review by . November 08, 2009
Over the years Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" has become one of his most well known films, but only because either won't shut up about how it isn't close to the book at all (we hear you, and would invite you to stop reminding us now) or because people are often quick to jump up and say just how much the movie frightens them.  The "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!" moment is perhaps one of the most quoted lines in Hollywood.  As I've said before, when it comes to movies being …
review by . May 06, 2009
The Shining was Stanley Kubrick's attempt to make a bona fide horror film. Despite the fact that he has never really directed one, he was infatuated with the project. He read the novel by Stephen King and set out to recreate the novel, his own way. What we get is a cold ans sterile film that resembles the original source material some what. We get a maniacal and crazed Jack Nicholson, a doormat Shelly Duvall and a minor actor/performer Scatman Crothers a shot a some big time acting. The actors were …
review by . December 30, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Duvall     Cons: the talking finger & cast speech patterns     The Bottom Line:   "Come on you raver, you seer of visions,   come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!"  ~Pink Floyd         Although The Shining is considered one of the classic horror movies and there is much to love about the film, there are also some glaring negatives as well.  That certainly …
review by . February 12, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Though me and my mom normally share various points of views on certain film makers, we tend to split when it comes to Stanley Kubrick. My mom says, "he's so weird." I tell her "yeah, but he's a brilliant film maker, who films visually stunning films that are also mesmerizing." To this she just shrugs and says, "I don't care, he's still weird." Though a big fan of the director, for some reason his 80's horror film, "The Shining," escaped me for the longest time. Based off the best selling book by …
review by . October 31, 2007
(4 1/2 *'s) After all these years, I hedged at the prospect of watching `The Shining`. Having seen the snippets of Jack Nicholson's skillful performance, I partly dismissed the movie. In my mind, thinking of his famous line, "Here's Johnny!" the film seemed a novelty, something entertaining in a way it wasn't intended. Between Stanley Kubrick's amazing direction and Nicholson's and Shelly Duvall's excellent performances, first impressions can be misleading. Watching `The Shining' is a real treat.   & …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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A horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick based upon the bestselling novel by Stephen King.

Opening with spectacular aerial shots of a beautiful, mountainous landscape, Stanley Kubrick's horror classic THE SHINING sucks the viewer into his frightening tale with quiet, relaxing visuals--but the ominous soundtrack warns that all is not right at the gorgeous Overlook Hotel. Based on Stephen King's best-selling novel, the film stars Jack Nicholson at his eyebrow-raising best in his portrayal of Jack Torrance, a Vermont schoolteacher working at the Overlook as a winter caretaker. The glorious early-20th century resort only operates in warm weather because the snowy roads deny access in the colder months, so Jack brings his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), with him, as well as his young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who possesses some unique psychic powers. As the Torrances settle in for the long, lonely months ahead, strange, unexplainable things start occurring in the hotel--and in every scene Jack seems to be growing a little more evil and dangerous.... <br> <br> Cinematographer John Alcott (who also wo...
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