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UK/USA 1980
Directed by
Stanley Kubrick
119 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Shining

Jack Nicholson is eminently suited to the role of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer who seriously loses the plot and tries to carve up his wife (Shelley Duvall) and six year old son, Danny (Danny Lloyd who never pursued acting) while caretaking a resort hotel in the isolated Colorado mountains.  Kubrick knows how to make the best of the actor's talent for leering histrionics and it is this more than anything else that has made The Shining one of the most enduring of all mainstream “horror” films and a pop cultural icon, something epitomised in the much quoted “Heeeeeere’s Johnny” scene).

In adapting Stephen King's novel, Kubrick for the most part creates an atmosphere of impending disaster, most notably with the help of an unsettling soundscape and some striking imagery, memorably, the wave of blood that surges down the hotel corridor and the silent young murdered sisters who appear to young Danny, effects which recall David Lynch's surreal touches.

Scripted by Kubrick with Diane Johnson there is little that is conventionally frightening as the film wanders into some Dennis-Potter-meets-The-Twilight-Zone scenes (in the bar and the men’s toilet) that, despite the demonic possession that drives the events are far from typical of standard horror genre but which help to make the film that much more classy. Although the ending is rather anti-climactic, my only real sore point is the way in which the plot has Jack released from a locked store-room by one of the hotel's ghostly denizens (played by Philip Stone who played Alex's Dad in A Clockwork Orange, 1971). Aside from this real-world intervention Kubrick keeps the horror largely of a hallucinatory form and it is this insight into the deluded mind which gives the film much of its fascination (even if Jack's paranoid breakdown comes on rather quickly by real world standards).

FYI: After the 146 minute original version of the film was met with poor reviews and weak box office in the US,Kubrick re-edited the film for European release, removing 24 minutes of footage and eliminating two performances, Anne Jackson as the Doctor and Tony Burton as Larry. Both names appear in the credits.

 

 

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