Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers
Synopsis: Jack Nicholson and his family travel to the remote, and sinister, Overlook Hotel to look after it during the long winter months when it is closed. Jack begins to slowly descend into madness, putting his family in danger of receiving an axe to the face.
I must admit that I watched this movie just over a year ago when I was baked off my tits after consuming three hash truffles. I think that I was so far gone that I couldn’t really appreciate the film. To be honest I probably had no idea what I was watching. I decided to watch this movie again whilst under the influence of a high that was more controlled. Plus, I’d just purchased a new vaporizer that I wanted to try (it’s amazing!). Coming back to this movie with a more manageable high was a good idea because I was able to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the techniques Kubrick used to unsettle the audience.
If I could describe this movie in one word it would be ‘atmospheric.’ From start to finish Kubrick delivers a product that puts you on edge and takes you on a roller-coaster ride of unease and terror. From the opening panoramic shots of the majestic Rocky Mountains to the winding, meandering halls of the Overlook Hotel, every shot is perfectly calculated to dispel the viewer’s sense of direction and to install a sense of isolation and insignificance. Couple this with an eerie, shrieking soundtrack and the audience is left with a very real feeling that the Overlook Hotel is one bad mo fo that is not to be messed with. I sat down to watch the film and within the first two minutes I was wondering if I had made a prudent choice because I was already beginning to shit a brick in terror.
Technique aside, the story itself is really fucked up. Once again, we have Stephen King to thank for that but I’ve been told that the movie is really different form the original material so maybe it’s not just Stephen King’s twisted psyche we owe our thanks too. Either way, the whole way through I just kept thinking to myself: oh my God, what if it was me who was getting weird visions about elevator doors opening and releasing rivers of blood? What if it was me who was being chased into a maze by a lunatic with an axe? What if it was me watching a man in a dog costume giving a cheeky BJ to another man in a white tie suit? The story becomes a lot scarier when you’re able to put yourself into the characters’ shoes and this is aided in The Shining by the fact that the characters were extremely relatable. There was something endearing and sympathetic about Shelley Duvall’s mousy and timid demeanor. Their family breakdown was so tragic and pathetic and real. There was also something horrific about Jack Nicholson’s face. It truly is the most unholy of faces.
The Shining really is one of the greatest horror movies ever made not because it’s particularly grand and action packed because it’s not: it’s slow paced and intimate. What makes it so brilliant is that the film has a sense of realism despite being based on a premise that is fantastical. The film preys on the audiences’ fears of isolation and solitude and then exploits those fears, much like what the Overlook Hotel does to Jack and Danny in the film. It’s like a never ending cyclical motion. The film feeds our fears in the same way the hotel feeds on the weaknesses of the characters. That connection between fiction and reality is what makes this film stand out.
- The opening shot is wonderful and terrifying.
- The chase scene in the maze is tense as fuck and is brilliantly executed through the use of exquisite lighting and camera movements.
- Jack Nicholson’s beyond convincing performance of a lunatic.
- Shelley Duvall has some bad acting moments but it doesn’t really spoil the movie at all because she’s still quite sympathetic.
- Aaah fuck, naked old lady!
Instant classic. This film is a real test of bravery. I’ve become quite accustomed to watching horror movies on my own and in the dark but I know that’s not for everyone. Having said that, I really would recommend watching this by yourself after smoking a sativa dominant strain. That way you’ll understand Kubrick’s intentions and how he goes about executing those intentions in a way which can only be described as masterful.