What do you want me to say? It’s The Shining.
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, and disliked by said author for straying too far from the source material, The Shining is one of the cornerstones of 1980s horror. It stands out among the rest of the scary movies of the decade with its slower pace and sometimes confusing narrative. While many horror fans laude it as one of the greatest horror movies ever made, die hard King fans have voiced their displeasure with Stanley Kubrick’s take on the characters and settings. So where do I fall?
Well, it’s been maybe 6 years since I’ve read a full book, so I remain in the blissfully unaware camp that sees the film as a genuine classic without the knowledge that the book may be superior.
In The Shining, a family made up of a husband, wife and child are tasked with watching over the secluded mountainside hotel, The Overlook, during the winter and spring months while the hotel is shut down. Cutoff from the rest of the world, the father, Jack, attempts to finish writing his novel while the mother, Wendy, worries over their son, Danny’s, increasingly strange behavior. Things begin to fly off the handle as the dark history of the hotel begins to unearth itself through terrifying, ghostly images.
From the moment you see the first sweeping aerial shot over the beautiful Colorado countryside, you immediately sense a feeling of dread hidden under the lovely scenery. The tension and atmosphere is the best thing this film has going for it. There’s always an uneasiness in the air when Jack, Wendy or Danny is onscreen. Before you even learn of the dark past these characters endured, you can feel that something is off. Jack, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, appears cool, calm and collected, but you can almost see the evil trying to break its way out of him just by his facial expressions and slow talking. When Jack finally becomes fully unhinged, he’s a terrifying force to see descend into madness.
Similar to Jack, Wendy, who is played by Shelly Duval, does her best at the beginning to smile and be optimistic, hoping to move on from the family’s dark times. Yet you can see the pain she hides in her eyes, knowing what lies dormant in Jack and praying it won’t awaken again. While obviously distant from her husband, she put’s all the love she has in Danny, which proves to cause even more worry. As the story begins to unravel, Wendy transforms from a caring and worried mother to a full on scream machine. She isn’t given too much to do beyond that, and from what little I know about the novel, this is a big downgrade for her character. While Duval shows moments of genuine terror, it can become repetitive and stale fast as this is all she ends up doing for the latter half of the film.
Danny, Jack and Wendy’s son, has a lot going on for him during his stay in the overlook. His “imaginary friend” Tony is slowly starting to dominate his mind and body, and he begins to discover a mysterious power he has called “the shining”, something he shares with the hotel’s head chef, Dick. Danny, played by Danny Lloyd, does a pretty great job as far as child actors go, playing a pretty creepy kid with plenty of nuances to his performance.
The technical aspects is where the film really shines (get it?). The steadicam work that sweeps through the bounding halls of the hotel is dizzyingly impressive. When the camera isn’t souring up and down the halls it takes its time, slowly panning one way or another, or it may not even move at all. Its wide shots really let you be enveloped by the setting, whether it be the bustling ballroom or the snowy exterior of the Overlook.
The music can go from quietly subtle to blaringly loud when the mood calls for it. The musical choices and compositions never really feel out of place and tends to perfectly blend into the scenery. While there aren’t many effects to note, the small amount of practical ones that do appear are used effectively and smartly. The image of an ocean of blood pouring out of an elevator into a lobby does so much without the need for complexities.
While not really a movie I consider to be “scary”, The Shining does a tremendous job at building dread discomfort. What truly unsettles me in this movie has changed as I’ve gotten older. While ghostly twins, decaying old women, and a frozen corpse may not do it for me now, the underlying ideas is what continues to follow me as the years go by. The idea that your mind can go in just an instant with no chance of repair is a terrifying concept to think about. The ones you love are suddenly the ones at the greatest risk to be hurt by you. To see your loved ones morph into either the abuser or the victim can be a bit too depressing to dwell on for long, but these thoughts are a testament to the effective work both King and Kubrick had a hand in when sculpting this masterwork.
While it may not be the most faithful adaption to the source material, The Shining is nonetheless one of the best pieces of cinema, horror or not, to come out of the 80s. If fans of the book are able to see the film as its own entity, they may come to terms with the fact that this is a pretty good movie, and it could always be worse.
I mean, have you SEEN Artemis Fowl?
Danny doesn’t shut up about “red rum” throughout the movie, so I thought I’d try my hand at making this fictional drink recommended to me by a child.
Using an alternative recipe from a pre-existing cocktail, this drink can be made with either dark rum or spiced rum if you’re wanting a little extra kick alongside the Fireball cinnamon whiskey. Because this isn’t a very tall drink, the alcohol is prominently on display, so make sure you’re a fan of both before proceeding. Fret not, as you won’t technically be drinking straight rum/whiskey, as the muddled cherries do a good job at blending with the alcohol without removing too much of their taste, giving the drink sweet, fruit undertones. Finally, garnish with an orange peel to give it that extra aroma of citrus and cinnamon stick to really drive home the warm, wintery feel.
- 1 1/4 shot dark rum or spiced rum
- 1/4 shot Fireball or other cinnamon whiskey
- In a shaker, muddle 3-4 cherries.
- Add rum, fireball and ice to the shaker and shake.
- Strain over an ice sphere/large ice cube in an old fashioned glass.
- Garnish with a cinnamon stick and orange peel.