Flashback Review: The Shining

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A horror classic from master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.

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It’s official. The Shining was released in the UK 40 years ago. Despite the adaptation deviating significantly from Stephen King’s novel, it is still a celebrated classic that changed everything we know about horror movies. Instead of giving us the fast, panicked editing and dark cramped corners of the standard scary film, Stanley Kubrick provided us with brilliantly lit, chilling shots of the Overlook Hotel, a setting with a somewhat absurd interior, casting us back to the nostalgia of the ’70s. The film follows writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) as they leave their family home to take on an isolated hotel – miles from civilisation. If you haven’t seen The Shining yet, seek it out now. 

Isolation has been a sensitive subject of late. However, the isolation in Kubrick’s film only adds eerie undertones to shots of the Overlook: the sinister labyrinthine corridors, the illusory ballroom full of frippery (where Jack sheds the shackles of a stable state of mind), cold, sterile bathrooms and the vast, desolate entrance lobby. This is, of course, the best kind of horror out there, a film that crawls under your skin and makes your own living room feel unsafe. The Shining utilises the horror of the mind and makes the human being seem the most unnerving, unpredictable creature of them all. 

The production process on this movie was one that took perfectionism and meticulousness to new heights. Duvall was reputedly forced, over and over again, to do 127 takes of the baseball bat scene, which is where The Shining reaches its crescendo. Nicholson was force-fed numerous cheese sandwiches (which he hates) in order to produce an authentic sense of inner revulsion. The result is gloriously precise. Moreover, we must not forget the most captivating and shocking scenes in the film: a lift opening to see gallons of blood gushing out; an extremely attractive woman deteriorating into an old hag; and the iconic moment where Jack’s crazed face appears through the axe wound he has just inflicted onto a bathroom door. 

The final shot of The Shining is one of Jack trapped inside a ballroom scene from 1921, hinting at an inevitable destiny that really was clear throughout. Jack belongs in the Overlook Hotel. Yet, for the infuriatingly brilliant Kubrick, this was exactly the point he intended as the film leaves you reaching for answers that never fully surface. Kubrick has always been one for the mysterious and unexplainable, but his masterpiece from 1980 is a film brought together by the psychological and esoteric elements of the human mind. 

Watch the trailer for The Shining below:

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classic culture editor 20/21. third year english student with unhealthy shakespeare, hannibal lecter, robert plant and 70s nostalgia obsession.

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