The Shining

4 07 2011

Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I saw it on a cold, dark night, in the living room, in the darkness, hearing the eerie sound of the rain outside. Even as the opening titles rolled across the screen, with the eerie score playing in the background, and Jack Torrance driving to the Overlook Hotel, I was shivering in fear. Even then, before the story could even begin, I was frightened. If I was frightened then, then you can’t call what I experienced after the opening titles ‘frightening’. It was much more than that.

“The Shining” follows Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, and his family, as they agree to become the carekeepers of the Overlook Hotel throughout the winter. In the interview for the job, the owners tell Jack about Charles Grady, the previous carekeeper of the hotel, who went mad and murdered his daughters and wife with an axe. Jack states that such a thing is unlikely to happen to him, for he enjoys solitude. He gets the job, and it’s not long when he takes his wife and son to the Overlook. Ironically, Jack Torrance supposedly loses it, and begins to doubt his family. They need to be ‘corrected’, as the supposed fruit of his imagination says.

The film is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. I haven’t read the novel, but I assume Kubrick does it justice. “The Shining” is the most horrific film I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned before, even the opening titles develop fear in the viewer. The score, I think, plays the biggest part. Without the music, the film wouldn’t be nearly as frightening. Thank Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind for providing us with such an eerie score.

“The Shining” is a horror film, but what makes it differ from almost any other horror film these days, is actual horror. When I was watching the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” I jumped quite a few times, but Freddy never haunted me. I watched that movie in a schoolhouse as we had a class evening there. I watched it with about 10 people, who all jumped, but were never scared afterwards. “The Shining” remains with you after you’ve seen it. Modern horror films rely on people being scared for a moment. Everyone can do that, it takes lots of time and work to make a film that almost never makes you jump, but is as horrific as a horror film can be.

Nicholson’s performance is also noteworthy. I did not particularly like Shelley Duvall as Wendy, Jack’s wife, but I guess that was the point. Call me a horrible person, but I actually rooted for Jack to win. But in the end, the conclusion still left me satisfied. The ending does not make much sense, but then again, nor does the human mind.

We get terrific work from Scatman Crothers (what a name!) as Dick Hallorann, one who can communicate with Jack’s son through a psychological stream of knowledge known as shining. According to Hallorann, there are some people who can communicate without saying anything. As he’s giving Jack a tour of the Overlook, he calls his son ‘Doc’, yet he is not supposed to know that nickname. More shining is shown when Jack has already lost it, and his son communicates to Hallorann to urge him to come aid him and his mother.

As I said before, “The Shining” is the scariest film of all time. The Overlook Hotel is ridiculously haunting. I once spent a couple of nights in a similarly decorated house. Only now I understand how eerie the interior of a building can be, especially that of a building from the 70’s. The 70’s frighten me. (I am trying to avoid spoilers here) But the photo in the end, says it’s made in 1921. And a certain person is on it, who shouldn’t be on it. Is someone imagining the whole happening? Is it real and the photograph simply contains a person similar to the person who looks like the person who’s on it? That’s the beauty of “The Shining” really. We can keep guessing what the ending means. My guess however, is that Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick intentionally wrote an ending that does not make sense. Just to have the readers guessing.

Yet, even as the ending is as it is, you feel a sense of completion. The film doesn’t end abruptly, or leaves the story open, it ties the loose ends, but makes room for your imagination. Now, two days after I saw the movie, I still check the corridors for whether Jack Torrance has come to pay a visit.

Rating: ★★★★

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bztYTkBiR0Q (please note that the film was made in 1980, the HD trailer was cut in 2010)

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