Let this be said out front: The Shining is Stephen King’s best movie adaption to date. In his third-to-last film as a director, Stanley Kubrick takes the iconic horror novel and transposes it onto the screen with an eerie simplicity and dreadfulness.
By now you know the tale. A family with some tumultuous traits moves into The Overlook Hotel for the winter where an evil presence lies in rest. There a young boy with physic abilities begins to see the horror of the hotel unfolding before only his eyes while his father spirals into a riveting madness that forces much dreary foreboding.
Having just re-watched the film for the first time since reading the original novel, The Shining still stands the test of time. The loneliness is all-encompassing. The psychological shock that Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, portrays is some of the best mental case study work ever put to the silver screen. Additionally, Kubrick manages to make the Overlook hotel a character in its own in a terrifying way.
The Shining really flips on its head when consecutive scenes blend the spiritual embodiment of The Overlook with terror of the family’s reality.
In the midst of the ghost setting in the ballroom, Jack Torrance meets the hotel’s mystique in human form by way of its former caretaker, Grady. The two characters have a conversation that all but convinces the truly alive but all-be-it insane Jack that his son Danny has set his wishes and desires against The Overlook. This sends Jack down the path of no return.
The second scene centers around Danny and the consumption of himself by his own imaginary friend Tony. Wendy Torrance, played by Shelley Duvall, is forced into isolation at this point; For the majority of the movie she is unburdened by the visuals of the ghostly terror that The Overlook possesses.
There is no doubt that Kubrick has a multitude of award-winning and jaw dropping directorial projects. From Paths of Glory (1956) and Spartacus (1957), to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), it is impossible to rank the somehow only one-time Oscar winner’s endeavors rank.
For me, The Shining is one of the more underappreciated thrillers strictly in terms of directional excellence and cinematography. The way that Kubrick elicits drama from seemingly bland canvases makes this work of his remarkable.
A question for another day is where does Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance rank among all of his work? Throughout the 1970s, he was nominated for an Oscar five times before winning in 1976 for his vision of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). For me personally, The Shining is among his top-five efforts during his illustrious career.
It’s crazy to imagine that Stephen King’s best movie adaption is also the most altered compared to his original text. But regardless, credit goes to King for creating the story and Stanley Kubrick for maneuvering it in a very chilling and beautiful way.
Stanko Rating: A-