a critiQal film review The Shining (1980)

Plot: Jack Torrance (Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Duvall), and his son, Danny (Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack's writing goes nowhere and Danny's visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel's dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

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  • ...Kubrick's vision of the hotel, his masterful ability to build tension, and Jack's standout performance still keep this horror classic performing.

There have been many Stephen King novels that have been adapted for the big screen, yet there are few that are as memorable as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Is it because of the collaboration between King and Kubrick? Or is it Jack Nicholson taking center stage? We decided to take another look at The Shining and find out.

Jack Nicholson leads the cast, and easily nabs the spotlight away from his co-stars in The Shining. His withering looks and ever-increasing temper are just two symptoms of a man descending into madness. Nicholson takes the role and makes it his own, delivering a chilling command performance. It’s a knockout, even today.

Shelley Duvall, as Jack’s on-screen wife, is surprisingly dull. While her scream-a-thon antics and frightened looks may have riveted viewers back in the day, it just looks a bit dated for today’s viewers. Surprise! That doe-eyed look of terror gets old after all.

Young Danny Lloyd also gives a dated performance, although this one isn’t as much of a surprise. Since the movie’s release, we’ve heard that the young actor didn’t actually know he was making a horror movie. In fact, all the frightening images he’s responding to weren’t actually there when he was being filmed. It’s no wonder his performance feels a bit dull.

Scatman Crothers is decent enough. Unfortunately, his character seems a bit short-changed in The Shining. While a lot of the film builds him up, it seems like sequences near the end may have been left on the cutting room floor, leaving the viewer feeling a bit let-down about how the film treats him.

The Overlook Hotel, as depicted in The Shining, hasn’t lost any of the presence Kubrick gave it, and that has managed to withstand the test of time. Sure, the sound effects are a bit too jarring and painful to the ear (thanks to their uneasy transition to better sound quality) but enough of the overall feel of the film remains to keep the Overlook Hotel as ominous as ever.

The impact of The Shining has lessened considerably over the years, thanks to dated performances from it’s co-stars and sound effects that by now have become a bit painful to hear. Yet, the parts that remain – Kubrick’s vision of the hotel, his masterful ability to build tension throughout, and Jack’s standout performance – all still keep this horror classic performing.

True, it’s not quite on the level it used to be, but more than 30 years after it’s release, who would expect it to?

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