King, so I have nothing to compare this film to. I do not plan on reading the book either.
Film Score: ⭐⭐
Released by Warner Brothers
Release Date: June 13th, 1980
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers
Written by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Rated R (Language, violence, menace, some gore, and nudity)
Jack Torrance: [typed] All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I am not a big fan of The Shining. I know, right? How can I be a horror fan and not bow down to the greatness of The Shining? It just was never that great of a film to me. I understand that almost everyone loves this film and that I have joined Stephen King as one of the very few who dislike this film, but I think that Stanley Kubrick wanted to make something that he wasn’t that well versed on. He has made a horror film that is mostly devoid of horror. He has made a horror film for people who don’t like horror films.
Jack is warned that a previous caretaker went insane and killed his family, something that Jack is not worried about. Once at the hotel, Jack begins to see things and slowly goes crazy. Meanwhile, Danny starts to have visions of his own. He finds out from the hotel’s head chef (Scatman Crothers) that Danny has, what the chef calls, the shining, a telepathic link between people who also have the same ability. Once shit hits the fan, Danny tries to use his shining to get help. Jack eventually goes completely made and tries to kill his family.
The next Jack is the crazy, but not murderous Jack. This is the Jack who gets stressed out over having writer’s block (it is a bitch) and also goes to room 237 to fond the dead woman in the bathtub. This Jack is supposed to be the one that we see the most, the one that goes through most of the trials to insanity. The problem lies in the fact that this Jack doesn’t seem that much different from crazy and murderous Jack. He starts to see things, but they appear normal to Jack. Yes, I understand that this is what makes Jack go crazy, but it seems that he is just seeing things rather than having a mental breakdown. We will talk more about this later.
I don’t think that Kubrick liked horror films. This film, while it is a horror film, feels more like a drama than a horror film. There are not too many scares and the overall creepiness that Kubrick was seemingly trying to go for is almost absent. You can see where the scares or mood was supposed to go, but Kubrick seems more interested with how beautiful things look.
Another thing I had a problem with was the casting. Shelley Duvall is great in the role, showing compassion for her family as well as someone who is scared out of her mind at the fact that her husband wants to kill her and their son. I know that Kubrick tortured Duvall and that is what made much of the performance possible, but it paid off because she is one of the best things about the film.
The casting of Jack Nicholson was probably the biggest problem involving casting. Don’t get me wrong, Nicholson is a fine actor. The man has won three Oscars and has played some of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema, but I feel that he was the wrong choice here. We know that Nicholson can play crazy. Hell, the man stared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and won an Oscar for it. We know from the first scene in the film that Nicholson is going to raise his eyebrows and yell and twitch. There is no surprise here. We know what is going to happen based on the casting alone. Had they cast someone who is not known for going crazy on screen then the film might have benefitted more.
Kubrick could have cut down some of the film to ratchet up the suspense, but that would have meant that there was suspense in the first place. Never have I seen a horror film have less suspense than The Shining. We know how the film is going to end and who is going to be killed even before the film knows it. By the time The Shining came out we already had the first Friday the 13th released. I am not saying that Friday the 13th is a better film than The Shining. Actually I am, but the point that I am trying to make is that Friday the 13th knows how to be a better horror film than The Shining does. It is very apparent that Kubrick does not like the horror genre. The Shining was the only horror film that he made, but I question why he made it if he was going to minimize the horror element so much.
I just do not like The Shining. Plain and simple. I do not think that it is a poorly made film. I think that Kubrick was one of the greatest directors to ever have made a film, but this is not one of his better films. The film is trying to be something that it is not while posing as something that it is not. The Shining is not really a horror film, but it is a horror film. I know that all of this may be confusing, but so is The Shining.