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The Shining

1980 horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick

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A horror film that was WAY ahead of its time.

  • Oct 9, 2011
**** 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 intentionally unpleasant (the Bates Motel and House of "Psycho"). "The Shining" is such a film that contains a place where we find a disturbing sense of solace. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on a source novel written by the talented and exquisite Stephen King. This "place" that it presents is one that we enjoy even though terror and fright is most certainly around every corner, and at all times. It's an admirable film and more; a landmark for the horror genre, which was and forevermore is a relatively new genre for Mr. Kubrick. He hadn't worked there before. But...much like the film's central character, you never know where you've been and what you've done; maybe hidden (genre) talent rests in illusions. Kubrick had made thrillers before he made "The Shining". So he had crafted pure suspense, thrills, and now all he needed to master was atmosphere in the way of stunning imagery that was both fascinating and frightening. Some feel he missed his mark; I think he made a film that was, as usual, way ahead of its time.

King did not think favorably of it. I don't believe he ever will. Those who read the horror master's novel felt that the film was not faithful enough to be called a solid adaptation; many found it to be extremely mediocre at best. But then, there are those who can take a few steps back and see the film as its own story; its own work of art. Kubrick does indeed leave out a few plot details from the book, while in the process, adding a few new ones; but such actions are, as I feel, what make it such a special film. It's pure cinema; visually unforgettable and surprisingly witty. It's slow, suspenseful, and grotesque; it does the job and delivers every single one of the "goods"; unless you consider the usual sadism and abundance of repulsive gore among such things. I don't.

Stephen King's location of memorability was a hotel; but not just any old hotel. There's something ominous about it; as if a tragedy had once struck, thus plaguing the place with mad, evil forces. We know that something isn't quite right, yet Kubrick directs the film in such a way that it becomes hypnotic; addicting, even. We can't stop watching, we can't look away, and no matter how we may try to deny it, we are engaged.

So with the location given, the characters shall be properly introduced. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family, which includes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Llloyd), have just made a big move to a large hotel in Maine known as the Overlook Hotel; where Jack has found work as the new caretaker. It is revealed that the previous caretaker had mysteriously gone on a psychotic and murderous rampage; killing his entire family and eventually ending it all by offing himself via bullet-to-head. This very fact does not discourage Jack, who initially comes off as a relatable, healthy, recovering father figure who shares a troubled past with his young son, who himself has some problems of his own. Either Danny isn't coping well with the change of location, or what he claims to see through his eyes only truly is existent. The hotel cook informs him that he has a strange ability that he refers to as "shining". Such an ability comes with telepathic communication; something which Danny most certainly possesses.

The cook also mentions that the hotel itself has a "shine" to it. What does he mean by this? We don't wonder this for too, too long. In time, things begin to unfold; but not as quickly as we may anticipate. Jack seems to be going mad. Like Danny, he is "seeing things". While Danny sees the ghosts of two young girls who were brutally killed in that earlier hotel incident, Jack is greeted to visions of melting, deformed, initially whimsical naked women and various other hallucinations. He's a recovering alcoholic, and King's original story focused plenty on the dangers of such a past life-style as Jack's, although I still feel that the film touches such subjects fairly skillfully. There are scenes where Jack approaches the hotel bar in a dream-like state. The scene itself is presumably a dream. He drinks up; and he keeps on drinking. There's a clever little conversation between him and the bartender in that very moment; and it makes up one of my favorite scenes of the film. But I'm getting off track.

It isn't my job to spoil "The Shining". There's plenty to look into when it comes to the film itself, which is on the surface, just an entertaining, creepy, atmospheric chiller that aims to shock as well as please genre fans. However, underneath, it's something more. There are characters that we truly like here; from jolly ol' Jack to his wife, to his kid to the all-knowing cook. Every character has a personality. Even the hotel walls seem to speak as many words and tell as many stories as any of these people do. When a film achieves something like that, you know it's great. And in spite of where you personally stand, I feel that "The Shining" IS great. It's 80's horror as it should have always been done. It makes you wait for things to happen, sure, but it's often more fun to anticipate the coming of future events than for them to actually happen. I've learned this from several years of watching this genre closely; and I've finally observed it enough to fully appreciate something like this film. It's one of Kubrick's best, and whether it's faithful or not, one of the best Stephen King adaptations as well. Through a maddeningly masterful performance from Nicholson, a delightfully playful sense of insanity, and a disturbing feeling of pitch-perfect surrealism, "The Shining" is a knock-out. It asks us to follow the distant music and keep on following. I wonder if I'll get to rest one of these days.

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October 16, 2011
I liked this one - rather creepy with the personality changes of Jack Nicholson and it made me think too of the God-awful thought of being isolated from the world for so long. Some thought it was scary; I didn't find it scary in the least but creepy nonetheless. Great review!!
October 16, 2011
One of my favorite horror movies....
More The Shining (1980 movie) reviews
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.   & …
review by . October 31, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . March 30, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
When I think of a horror movie, I think of a film that is going to scare me in some way. There doesn't have to be any gore involved, no actual acts of violence need to be shown (the greatest horror directors know that less is more), and I usually am startled at least a couple of times. I didn't find THE SHINING to be a scary movie. At times it was disturbing, but it really never was scary.The movie stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a writer who is hired to be the winter caretaker of a huge …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … 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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