Somehow or other I’d never got round to seeing this iconic horror movie until yesterday, when my partner persuaded me to rent the DVD. I enjoyed it, though it wasn’t quite as scary as I’d been led to expect.
The Shining is a 1980 film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the horror novel of the same name by Stephen King. I’ll come clean here and admit that I have never read King’s novel so cannot comment on how faithful this movie version is to it, but at least that meant the storyline was fresh to me when I watched it.
The film is set in a large lodge hotel in the mountains of the USA. The hotel closes every winter and left with only a caretaker. The protagonist Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicolson) is a writer who has taken the vacant post of winter caretaker so as to have peace and solitude to work on his new book. He, his wife Wendy and his son Danny are left there alone, but not until after the hotel manager tells him of the previous caretaker who went insane and murdered his family with an axe. One of the hotel cooks also delivers a warning to Danny (who seems to have extrasensory powers) about room 237.
Over the weeks of their solitary stay in the now-deserted hotel Danny has several encounters with malevolent spirits. However it is Jack who cracks. First his moods swing, then he starts to see spirits in the hotel ballroom and comes under their sway, becoming totally deranged (which process Jack Nicolson portrays superbly). From there, things get more and more horrific.
The film was engrossing, keeping me wondering what would happen, how it would end and who (if anyone) would survive. In terms of horror, though, it provided very few ‘jump off your seat in fright’ moments. Whether that is simply the age of the film and the expectations of a modern horror audience, I don’t know. The age of the film was certainly evident from the décor of the hotel, especially the hideous orange and brown carpets which were almost as horrific as the spectres that haunted the hotel!
The Shining is a milestone horror film, though, and whilst not as fright-inducing as it could be it is still very enjoyable and so much a part of film culture that it is worth watching purely for that reason.