Outside the Box: The Shining
By Brian Wong
The Shining (1980)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Sometimes you just want a horror movie that isn't populated by ex-cast members of
Party of Five or monstrous blobs of computer-generated pixels.
Although you might find a few films which satisfy this need, you might want to turn back the clock to the '80s (of all decades) for Stanley Kubrick's gorgeous adaptation of Stephen King's novel
Kubrick is able to tell the story of a struggling writer's slow descent into madness with a fury of tension between the characters.
What is striking about the film is the way the cameras tend to follow the characters as they move through the long corridors and rooms of the Overlook Hotel where Nicholson's character, Jack Torrance, is the caretaker during the hotel's off-season. By tracking the paths of the Torrances in one long shot, the viewer gets an amazing perspective of the maze-like expanse of the hotel and ends up as lost as the characters in the film.
Although psychological horror is the main fright factor, there's also an element of the supernatural the Overlook has its ghosts, while "the shining" is in fact the name of the unexplainable force that haunts Jack's son, Danny, causing him to have nightmarish visions (we won't tell you what these visions are, but we promise they look killer on screen!).
All of this is pulled together in fine form, mostly due to Kubrick's sense of simplicity. You'll find characters interacting against a backdrop of very few colours, causing the colours that are present in the picture to pop out at you. Horror filmmakers take note: this technique works especially well for scenes with massive amounts of blood and, although the body count is comparatively low in
The Shining, the bloodfest scenes wind up having an even greater impact.
Viewers might be taken aback by the slow pace of the unfolding story (and by the lack of gore in the first half of the film), but watching Nicholson's transformation into a nutcase and anticipating his infamous "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" makes it easy to sit through.
The Shining is truly a chilling masterpiece.