The Shining is a visual delight of horror and dread.
The Shining is a supernatural horror film that is based on the novel of the same name written by Stephen King in 1977. It’s an adaptation that focuses on the visual aspects of the horror and results in an amazing looking film with stunning horrifying and memorable shots. With a great atmosphere, amazingly looking set designs and art decoration, The Overlook is a character by itself that makes a big terrifying impression. The colors, the lighting, the music, the sound effects, the theatrical scenes are a delight to watch and makes this horror film a little piece of art.
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Jack Torrance a teacher who has been fired gets a job offer to work as the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel during the winter. He brings with him his wife Wendy and little son Danny. When they are shown the place by cook Dick Halloran he notices that Danny has a special gift, just like him, that he calls The Shining. This gift also makes this hotel more dangerous for Danny than for other normal people. Dick warns him not to enter room 237 and that if he needs help he just has to think and shout in his head for Dick.
That winter the ghosts and evil spirits of The Overlook are woken up and come after Danny and use Jack to get to him.
Why you should watch it
The Shining doesn’t follow the original story in detail, but grabs the essence while focusing on the brilliant visuals. The Overlook has now become a real character of its own. It’s stunning, enormous, impressive and the interior design is just amazing. Kubrick makes excellent use of the big hallways, the vastness of the place, the maze-like halls and the creepy rooms. The only thing that is a bit cozy is the little caretaker’s place in a special part of the hotel, that has the look and feel of a family apartment.
The camera angles, the huge hall where Jack works on his writing, where he throws a tennis ball against the wall, which makes an echo sound, reminds even more of the immense place and the three people living in it are reduced to little dolls in a big dollhouse. The camera follows Danny around when he rides his tricycle through the halls and corridors, shot from his low perspective show how even more impressive this place looks when you are a little kid.
The colors, the carpets, the wallpaper are an interior designer’s dream. It really makes this film a unique place that puts the three people outside of the normal world. It even makes it somewhat surreal at times, artificial but in a good way. The symmetric shots, the focus on the middle of the frame, create and even more alienating vibe, very static and again, the three people are the only ones who are dynamic. It feels a bit dissociative, like it all doesn’t add up and that creates a big part of the horror. Add to this the great music score and the horror is always very near, around every corner, in every room and lurks in the hallways.
The visions that Danny has about what happened in The Overlook are downright creepy and surreal and his reaction makes it all the more scary. But unlike in the book, the horror is focused more on the madness that takes a hold of Jack than the actual influence of the ghosts and the supernatural. This film also focuses more on Jack, while the book is about all three of them and about their dynamics. Jack has a much more dominant role, while Wendy’s role is reduced to almost nothing. It’s not about the interaction between Jack’s alcoholism, Danny’s shining and Wendy’s fears and all their personal fears and struggles, but about Jack becoming the villain. While in the book, he’s a victim, just like Danny and Wendy, taken over by the paranormal.
Now the horror lies with the cabin fever, that is caused by their isolation and unresolved issues. Only aggravated by the supernatural. The film therefore has an entirely different tone and atmosphere and theme. Both the book and the film are masterpieces of horror in their own way. But together, the storytelling and character development of the book and the stunning visuals of the film, make it a brilliant story and unforgettable masterpiece of horror.
My favorite part
Of course the scenes where Danny is riding his tricycle are wonderful, the elevator and the flood of blood, the creepy twins, those are all scenes that have become a part of our collective memory. It’s an outstanding horror that you have to watch as a standalone story. Stephen King wasn’t happy with this adaptation because it ruined the core of the story, and I agree that it doesn’t do justice to the characters at all, but visually it’s an amazing film and the atmosphere is just spot on. So don’t just watch the film instead of reading the book. Both watch it and read it and you’ll be the richer for it.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Scare factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
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Cast and crew
The Shining is directed and written by Stanley Kubrick and based on The Shining written by Stephen King in 1977. It stars Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Dick Halloran) and Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance).
Duration: 146 minutes. Music: Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind. Cinematography: John Alcott. Edited by: Ray Lovejoy. Produced by: Stanley Kubrick. Production company: The Producer Circle Company, Peregrine Productions, Hawk films. Distributed by: Warner Bros.