Ever since I was young, horror movies have always held a special place in my heart. I remember the very first horror film I ever watched, Nightmare on Elm Street, and it gave me nightmares. But, even though I was scared, I was also hooked and have never looked back since. The Shining was one of the next few horror movies that I can remember watching at a young age and being scared by.
This film tells the story of a recovering alcoholic ex-teacher, named Jack Torrance, who decides he wants to be a writer. He takes a job as the caretaker for a hotel that stays closed during the winter due to bad weather. He and his family are to spend the next 5 months there, alone, cut off from everyone. Soon, strange things begin happening in the hotel and it's affecting Jack in a way that causes his wife, Wendy, and 8-year old, clairvoyant son to fear for their lives. Is it simply a case of cabin fever gone to far or is their something more sinister at play here?
Bringing forth his specific visual style, Stanley Kubrick attempts to adapt one of King's most beloved novels, and even though I am a fan of this film, as an adaptation, it is lacking. Prior to the 1997 mini-series, Stephen King's The Shining, King publicly denounced this film due to the number of changes Kubrick made to the original story, turning it into more of a tale of isolation and madness, rather than the outright horror/ghost story that it was originally intended to be, but in order to get the rights to make the mini-series, King was contractually obligated to no longer speak poorly of Kubrick's original film. However, in a recent interview during his promotional tour for Doctor Sleep, the literary sequel to his novel, The Shining, he spoke out about his distaste for Nicholson as Jack Torrance and Shelly Duvall's portrayal of Wendy. Kubrick went on to direct only two more films after this before he passed away in 1999, those being Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), the latter being released posthumously.
As an actor, Jack Nicholson is one of the greats, from his role as Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, to his iconic portrayal of The Joker in Batman, and this character is no different. Playing the role of Jack Torrance, Nicholson brings a sense of madness to the part, which, even though wasn't what King had intended for, worked for what Kubrick brought to the big screen. It was easy to believe that Jack could do these things, whether that's good or bad is for the viewer to decide. Another strong performance came from Scatman Crothers, as hotel chef, Dick Hallorann. This was his second role in a movie starring Jack Nicholson, the first being the 1975 classic, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. And we can't forget about Danny Torrance. This character was portrayed by Danny Lloyd and was his first of only two roles for his "acting career". I enjoyed his performance as the sheltered yet gifted child of Jack and Wendy Torrance and his interpretation of the character and execution of the infamous "REDRUM" line will live on for generations.
However, not every performance was award-worthy. The character of Wendy Torrance, played by Shelley Duvall, was one that was heavily changed from the source material. Originally, Wendy was a strong, self-reliant woman who tries to see the good in Jack. In the film, however, she is made out to be weak, submissive, and at times, stupid. I'm not really a big fan of Duvall, personally, and I don't think she brought much to this character, not to mention that her and Nicholson didn't really have much chemistry on-screen.
Overall, I truly do enjoy this film. Overlooking some of its flaws, like some poor casting choices, a run-time that probably could have had 20 minutes cut out if it, and a slew of unanswered questions (like who's Tony? What was the significance of the picture at the end? Why wasn't more done with Danny's power?), I believe that anyone who calls themselves a true film fan, not just of horror, should see this film at least once in their lives because it's still as haunting today as ever.
Josh's Rating: 8/10