Occasionally in horror, the stars align and the viewer is given the best gift ever. The gift of a film that is both terrifying and cinematically fantastic. It’s a rare occurrence, sort of like an eclipse or the Northern Lights or something, but it does happen. And hopefully, with your help, it’ll start happening more. The whole point of Save Horror is share the greats with you and encourage you to share those with others. Through this act alone, we can spread great horror and hold it to a higher standard. What standard, you ask? Well, if all horror films were as great as The Shining, I wouldn’t have anything to blog about.
The Shining, adapted from the Stephen King novel and released in 1980, tells the story of the Torrance family. Jack, Wendy and Danny move to the Overlook Hotel in Colorado to serve as caretakers through the dreadful winter season. The Torrance’s live in complete, snowed-in isolation and this drives Jack crazy, leading to a dreadful outcome. Directed by the insane Stanley Kubrick, this film will leave you scratching your head and looking over your shoulder. Let me start by noting this film was a bit tricky to classify. Lucky for Keith and I, most films fall pretty easily into a creature category. Even if they represent a couple different ones, we can usually justify the classification by which creature is more heavily represented. The Shining has a psychopathic murderer (although, not technically a serial killer) and a very strong supernatural presence. Both are represented with equal measure, so it’s tough. In the end, though, we decided viewers are most likely to think of Jack Torrance, the psychopathic murderer, when they think of this film. And while he may not rack up enough bodies to actually qualify as a serial killer, it’s close enough. I welcome e-mails arguing a different classification, though.
The Shining has everything going for it. It’s written perfectly. The set design is incredible. The acting is top-notch. The music is terrifying - most of the film uses an awful, piercing whistling when something evil is afoot. It’s both annoying and unsettling. The story is very relatable, as I’m sure anyone can sympathize with people in complete isolation going bat-shit crazy. And, the story adds a supernatural component for horror fans with a bit more imagination. The shots are gory and graphic when they need to be, resulting in terrifying sequences involving a flood of blood and creepy twins. Maybe creepy twins don’t scare you. Maybe young Danny riding his tricycle in a circle around and around and around the hotel doesn’t unsettle you. Maybe Wendy’s extremely needy personality doesn’t irritate you. Maybe none of the supernatural references or scenes stimulate you. Maybe the giant maze in the backyard doesn’t worry you. That’s ok. Because if none of that works, you still have Jack Nicholson to deal with. His portrayal of Jack’s voyage to crazytown is ridiculous. It is acting at its best and I dare you to say it’s not terrifying. I dare you.
The Shining is an odd film full of unexplainable situations and a mind-boggling ending. But it’s also full of well-developed characters and a plot anyone can relate to. It is the holy grail of horror, all two and half hours of it. I know, I know, it’s really long. But it’s worth it. I invite and encourage everyone to stay at the Overlook Hotel. I know on horror island, most of the creatures are too scared to visit it. Will you be?
If you liked The Shining, you might also like Psycho, Cold Creek Manor and Sinister.