With remarkable visual panache and a keen sense of irony, Stanley Kubrick rehabilitates Stephen King's trashy, terrifying novel. Not a horror film in any traditional sense, but a perversely comic, occasionally frightening melodrama of intrafamilial rage, THE SHINING retains the Oedipal
structure of King's narrative while running rings around its pulpy sensibility.
Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is a former schoolteacher hoping to find the solitude necessary to write a novel, so he accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of a Colorado resort, the Overlook Hotel. Because the winter storms are so fierce in this isolated mountain region, the hotel is often
cut off from the rest of civilization. When he accepts the job, Jack is warned that the isolation can be devastating (some years earlier the caretaker axed his wife and two daughters to death). Jack and his wife, Wendy (Duvall), and their son, Danny (Lloyd), journey by car to the Overlook. Danny
possesses the psychic gift that the hotel's chef (Crothers) calls "the shining"--he can "see" events from the future and the past. He can also project his thoughts into the minds of others. Danny senses something evil about the hotel and, while riding his bike through its labyrinthine halls, has
visions of the carnage of past murders. His only playmate in this lonely environment is his "imaginary" friend, Tony. The emotionally vulnerable Jack--he's a recovering alcoholic with a history of violent episodes--is bedeviled by visions as well. Before long he begins to succumb to the hotel's
supernatural forces and becomes possessed by thoughts of chopping up his family.
The film begins with astounding aerial footage of the Torrances' car driving through breathtaking mountain landscapes, accompanied by Wendy Carlos' mournful electronic score. There's also some impressive Steadicam work as the camera follows directly behind Danny, riding his Big Wheel bike through
the winding corridors of the hotel. Cinematographer John Alcott (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, BARRY LYNDON) does his usual outstanding job in each of these sequences. The film is rich thematically as well as visually--it's interesting to see how well the themes of the novel coincide with Kubrick's ongoing
obsessions--but dramatically somewhat unsatisfying; it seems to have been conceived as a horror film for people who have lost patience with the genre. Duvall and Lloyd are excellent, while Nicholson's performance is over the top, complete with rolling eyes and hyperactive eyebrows. By the time of
the climactic chase, he's lurching around like a cut-rate Quasimodo.
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- Released: 1980
- Rating: R
- Review: With remarkable visual panache and a keen sense of irony, Stanley Kubrick rehabilitates Stephen King's trashy, terrifying novel. Not a horror film in any traditional sense, but a perversely comic, occasionally frightening melodrama of intrafamilial rage, T… (more)