The Shining

the_shining_28198029Year: 1980

Synopsis: An aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic becomes the winter caretaker of a secluded hotel, which as we know, does not go well.

Pros:
• Jack Nicholson drove the growing madness and horror of the film
• Visually perfect, as if there was a kind of flowing stillness throughout most of the film.
• The less then subtle hints of unreliable narrator successfully added disorienting elements.
• [Probably] Supernatural forces merely nudging people into madness.
• The dark humor was perfectly interwoven into the narrative.
• A glorious fever dream.

Cons:
• Though certainly intentional, first time viewers might find Shelly Duval’s manically neurotic performance and the overall ambiguity of the story difficult to tolerate.
• Fans of the original novel — and Stephen King himself — certainly had mixed feelings of Kubrick’s interpretation.

Discussion:
The horror of the unknowable and ambiguous were not necessarily new concepts in fiction. Those concepts were long found in weird fiction and gothic horror. Yet, Kubrick utilized the concept in a way that felt so new and different that it took years for viewers to understand just how perfect it all was for the film (like 2001: A Space Odyssey). Was the Torrence family negatively affected by the isolation? Certainly. Were supernatural forces exacerbating the growing stress? Probably. Were Grady and Jack Torrence the only people that lost their minds there? Unlikely. Who exactly was Lloyd the bartender? Unclear. Was Jack Torrence “always” the caretaker there? Unclear. Some elements were certainly solid, while so much was not. That was the point, but we did not have to figure it out. Indeed, it might be impossible to fully understand the mixing of human madness and supernatural forces. That was the core of The Shining’s eternal horror.

In the end, if there was anything for certain, it was a lovely party for at least one ghost.


Rotten Tomatoes — 86%

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