Classic movie review: The Shining (1980)

2012-08-16 12:10
Sean Billings
Like other films made in the early part of the eighties, The Shining (1980) gathered a following with the emergence of VHS.

Just like Blade Runner and The Thing, both released in 1982, The Shining received a less than glowing reception from both critics and movie fans alike, but built huge momentum from the newly forming video generation and late night television re-runs. 

Even with Stephen King's name attached, having already established his name in film with Brian De Palma's Carrie (1976), The Shining would require a few repeated viewings for film lovers to realise just how technically brilliant, and bloody scary, it is!

The basic plot sees struggling writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson) take up the position of caretaker of the spookily eerie Overlook hotel in the middle of God knows where with his wife (Duvall) and young son Danny (Lloyd) while the hotel is closed for the season, all trapped in snow covered isolation.

Torrance is told up front of some the Overlooks more dubious history, partly in the form of the Overlook being built on an Indian burial site, and the small matter of one of the previous caretakers, hacking his family into bits a few winters back.

So the scene is set for slow burning mayhem as Jack inevitably begins descending into some kind of delirious madness with the urge rising to also dismember his family unit, as we discover that the Overlook itself might be possessed of some kind of evil.

The Shining is of course more than just a happy hacker horror though. 

There are subtle layers happening here – Danny is certainly more than a regular little kid, in fact he has a supernatural connection that ties him into the very title of the film, and the family dynamic is also off balance – these are certainly not the Waltons, with hints of verbal and physical abuse in the air. 

As much as Nicholson is allowed to chew scenery, and Duvall – as his wife – allowed to play breathless victim of his madness, it is director Stanley Kubrick’s creation of the world they inhabit that has made The Shining so influential and revered in post mortem. 

The Overlook hotel is a fully realised character - all long corridors and hauntingly sterile interiors. As a film lover, you can spend all day traveling through hallways with Danny on his tricycle (so amazingly captured with the then pioneered-for-the-film Steadicam technology, freeing the cameraman to move without the handshake) or hanging out with Jack as he has a bourbon with the ghosts of the hotel in the Overlooks' breathtaking Gold Room. You just don’t want to be one of the film's characters for too long.

Kubrick's use of camera angles and lenses only add to the sense of dread around every corner, with a sharp musical score that also heightens the thrill and shock moments when they come.

Perhaps though, more than anything, it is the films unique feel that has been part of its endurance in the face of modern slasher horrors of today. 

It is has a black sense of humour - Jack can make you giggle at his outlandish behavior as much as make you want to shy away from the screen, all within the same scene!

Not even the scary set pieces are the films' real trump card, but rather the downright ominous mood of the film, which is amazingly sustained for its full run time that is the real winner here – cabin fever has rarely been so distilled on screen – and even when the horror is heaped up in spoons, what with dismembered twins, or a flood of blood from an elevator, or an iconic moment of Jack hacking through a bathroom door as he spouts out the words of a child's nursery rhyme, it is the exquisite environment that makes the film endlessly re-watchable. 

So if you are not one of the VHS generation that discovered the film’s memorable moments years ago, or somehow have only seen the conventional and (in comparison) downright dull television remake of the nineties, do yourself a favour and join the club of those that know something about Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation that you do not: That The Shining is the scariest and most haunting horror film ever made – and one that you won’t mind watching all over again as soon as the final credits are done.

Disclaimer: This is an article written by a Channel24 user. The views of users published on Channel24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Channel24. Channel24 reserves the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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  • eva.walle.75 - 2012-08-17 13:01

    I couldn't agree more! Hope they show it again this Halloween!

  • ockert.j.dupreez - 2012-08-17 13:49

    Classic movie, absolutely classic!

  • sjaan.wilkinson - 2012-08-17 18:33


  • jaaphenk.koelewijn - 2012-08-17 20:09

    Honey, put down the bat!

  • jaap.vanluijk - 2012-08-18 12:05

    Jack at his best

  • jaap.vanluijk - 2012-08-18 12:05

    Jack at his best ever

  • pippa.caldwell - 2012-08-18 14:15

    Hands down the scariest movie ever made; absolute brilliance.

      michael.l.cabral - 2012-08-20 10:59

      Possibly the only Stephen King adaptation that has for the most part lived up to the terror in the book...Hey Pips! :)

  • wade.johnson.58726 - 2012-08-19 00:51


  • lara.vanrooyen.1 - 2012-08-19 08:31

    Along with 'The exorcist', I agree.

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