Staff Review/ The Shining

Cornerhouse AV Technician Dave Petty reviews The Shining

It’s such a dreadful cliché, but there really is little else to say about The Shining that hasn’t already been said. That’s a hell of a way to shoot one’s self in the foot at the start of a film recommendation, but it’s true – every one of Kubrick’s thirteen feature films has had scores of scholars poring over every minute fibre of detail, and The Shining is no exception to the rule.

Much like The Thing, which I wrote about for our Hallowe’en screening a couple of years back, it’s a film I first caught when I was a young teenager – oblivious to many of Kubrick’s other works, no doubt watching it late night on Channel 4 with too many ad breaks, afraid to go to the toilet lest a pustule-covered old lady rise from the bath. The Torrance family (headed up by Jack Nicholson in a grandstanding performance) are charged with the responsibility of looking after the Overlook Hotel during the winter months, an imposing mountaintop building that practically serves as the film’s central character, its endless corridors, gigantic halls and garish green and orange décor threatening to overwhelm both the family and the viewer (the carpeting alone would be enough to send anyone doolally). And overwhelm it does, in the most spectacular fashion, with certain scenes as surreal as they are scary, as baffling as they are horrifying.

In fact, the film practically invites you to pore over it, to ruminate and to dissect – the last shot alone (no spoiler) almost encourages you to re-watch the film immediately, to see if there’s something obvious you missed first time round. But an academic exercise it isn’t. Much as I love Citizen Kane, it often feels like a text to be read, rather than a movie to be enjoyed – the same cannot be said for The Shining, a film that gleams with meticulous planning and drum-tight execution in the same way Kane does, but you don’t have to take a notepad into the cinema to ponder the mise-en-scene or the deep focus. It’s a film that’s there to shock you, to scare you, to make you feel uncomfortable without often even knowing why.

Stephen King never liked the film, quoted as saying it was the only adaptation of his novels that he could “remember hating”. Then again, Anthony Burgess had notable issues with Kubrick’s take on A Clockwork Orange – both films now noted classics in their respective genres. It’s an elegant, poetic, sometimes funny, often disturbing take on the horror genre, a world away from the ‘obvious’ scare tactics of lesser films, sitting perfectly alongside the likes of Rosemary’s Baby and Let The Right One In. Why not book a reservation at The Overlook today – you’ll never leave…