[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0013K11AE][/pullquote] Stanley Kubrick will forever be remembered as one of the most daring and controversial directors of all time. From films like Spartacus, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange his legacy was already assured when he decided to adapt a Stephen King story, The Shining onto the big screen. Kubrick’s unique creative style took the film away from the book to such a degree that King felt the need to voice his displeasure, but Kubrick’s vision of a family trapped in a hotel over a particularly harsh winter remians one of the most horrifying and fantastic films ever made.
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer who is struggling to complete his latest novel. He takes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to become caretakers of an empty hotel over the winter. As the weather gets worse, and the family get snowed in, Danny begins to see visions of the past and future, a gift, he is told that is known as The Shining. Meanwhile Jack begins to lose his mind as evil spirits corrupt him and he begins a violence-filled rampage throughout the hallways of the hotel.
Kubrick was always a master of creating tension and highlighting the flaws in humanity on an emotional and mental level. Never is this more pertinent and obvious than in The Shining. Splitting perspective of the film from Jack to Danny allows us to experience the full terror of what is happening in the hotel. The casting of Nicholson is inspired as he already had the reputation of being on edge and wild, which perfectly suits Jack Torrance. This is never more evident than the improvised scene with him hacking his way through a door before impersonating American light entertainer Johnny Carson with a gruesome “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” Shelley Duvall plays an excellent foil to the unhinged father and ‘gifted’ son and represents the audience, our reactions mirrored by her performance.
The setting also plays a huge part to the unbelievable levels of tension that are created. The hotel is exactly what a 1970s hotel would look like, complete with long unchanging corridors and gold and red colour scheme. When you empty a place that should be used for thousands of people, it immediately becomes creepy and unnerving, which in turn feeds into the audiences fears of isolation and ultimately death. Like any great horror film, The Shining never apologises for what its showing and just goes for the juggular from the outset.
Kubrick’s genius is never more evident than this slick, stylish and ultimately terrifying film. Meticulously filmed, including Shelley Duvall having to do 127 takes of one scene, everything has a purpose and that purpose is to scare and unsettle. Kubrick’s ending is as ambiguous as the start. Does there lie in every man, the potential to do great evil? The audience is left to make up their own minds at the end as Kubrick never shows his whole hand.