The Shining (1980)

2009-06-19 16:58
The Shining

Writer Jack Torrance brings his wife and son to the Overlook Hotel for the winter, where he has just been made caretaker. Alone and isolated, the family begin to notice strange happenings at the hotel, as Jack’s grip on sanity begins to slip. Something evil is afoot, and little Danny Torrance seems to be caught in the middle of it all.

We are all familiar with the horror of not knowing what will happen next. It finds us every day and never ceases to curdle our blood, whether on the cusp of a major blunder in traffic or even on a nervous first date. Arguably, this terror is the foundation of the horror genre in film. But there is something else, something infinitely more disturbing. That is the horror of not knowing what is happening… for now.

There is a moment in The Shining, as Jack’s mental breakdown is complete and the haunted Overlook Hotel has cast off its semblance of normality, that I still find terrifying to this day. Jack’s wife, Wendy, is running away from her demented husband when she catches a glimpse of two figures in a guest room: one in a tuxedo, the other in a bear suit. They appear to be acting out some sexual impulse, but what it is, we’re not quite sure. In fact, we have no idea where they came from or how they even fit into the plot.

There are explanations, of course, but the salient memory is one of confused terror. Before you know it, the scene is over and one thing is clear: you are in the power of a chilling cinematic masterpiece.

My fellow scaredy-cats may have been closer to a heart attack when Jack visits the infamous room 237, only to find a beautiful (and quite nude) temptress beckoning him for a kiss. As he gives in to his libido, he finds it requited not by a vixen, but by a cackling, decomposing hag. Like I said, first dates can be scary.

To tell the truth, The Shining was never really about ghoulish special effects, spectacular violence or Wes Craven-style frights. Instead, it worked fear on a different, much more psychological level. For this, Jack Nicholson is owed a great deal of thanks. As the loving father-turned-psycho Jack Torrance, Nicholson turns the male ego into a living nightmare for both his family and his audience. “Here’s Johnny!” is actually a catchphrase of The Tonight Show’s Johhny Carson, but in filmland it will always belong to Nicholson, still grinning at us through the splinters of the bathroom door after all these years.

As entertaining as the movie's myriad chills and spills, are the rumours, myths and backstories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s eccentric directing style. Wendy Torrance’s flight up the stairs with a baseball bat, for instance, is said to be the holder of a Guinness World Record for most takes shot for a film scene. The same incessant perfectionism is reported to have led Scatman Crothers, playing Dick Hallorann, to a breakdown on set, crying "What do you want, Mr. Kubrick?".

Looking at this movie today and measuring it up to the classic films that have come since, we can only conclude that whatever it was that Kubrick wanted, he had found by the time it reached cinemas in May of 1980.

A bit of trivia:

-    During the making of the movie, Stanley Kubrick would occasionally call Stephen King (who authored the novel on which the movie is based) at 3:00 a.m. and ask him questions like "Do you believe in God?"

- Stanley Kubrick considered both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams for the role of Jack Torrance but decided against both of them. Kubrick didn't think De Niro would suit the part after watching his performance in Taxi Driver, as he deemed De Niro not psychotic enough for the role. He didn't think Williams would suit the part after watching his performance in Mork & Mindy, as he deemed him too psychotic for the role. According to Stephen King, Kubrick also briefly considered Harrison Ford.

- Jack Nicholson ad-libbed the line "Here's Johnny!" in imitation of announcer Ed McMahon's famous introduction of Johnny Carson on U.S. network NBC-TV's long-running late night television show The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Kubrick, who had been living in England since before Carson took over The Tonight Show, had no clue what "Here's Johnny!" meant.

- According to Stephen King, the title is inspired by the refrain in the Plastic Ono Band's song, "Instant Karma" (by John Lennon), which features the chorus: "We all shine on."

- Because Danny Lloyd was so young and since it was his first acting job, Stanley Kubrick was highly protective of the child. During the shooting of the movie, Lloyd was under the impression that the film he was making was a drama, not a horror movie. He only realised the truth seven years later, when, aged 13, he was shown a heavily edited version of the film. He didn't see the uncut version of the film until he was 17 - eleven years after he'd made it.

Memorable quotes:

Dick Hallorann: Mrs. Torrance, your husband introduced you as Winifred. Now, are you a Winnie or a Freddy?
Wendy Torrance: I'm a Wendy.
Dick Hallorann: Oh. That's nice, that's the prettiest.

Wendy Torrance: [crying] Stay away from me.
Jack Torrance: Why?
Wendy Torrance: I just wanna go back to my room!
Jack Torrance:  Why?
Wendy Torrance: Well, I'm very confused, and I just need time to think things over!
Jack Torrance:  You've had your whole FUCKING LIFE to think things over, what good's a few minutes more gonna do you now?
Wendy Torrance: Please! Don't hurt me!
Jack Torrance:  I'm not gonna hurt you.
Wendy Torrance: Stay away from me!
Jack Torrance:  Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.
[Wendy gasps]
Jack Torrance: Gonna bash 'em right the fuck in! ha ha ha
Wendy Torrance: Stay away from me! Don't hurt me!
Jack Torrance: [sarcastically] I'm not gonna hurt ya...
Wendy Torrance: Stay away! Stop it!
Jack Torrance: Stop swingin' the bat. Put the bat down, Wendy. Wendy? Give me the bat...

Jack Torrance: You WERE the caretaker here, Mr. Grady.
Delbert Grady: No sir, YOU are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I ought to know: I've always been here.

All work and no play made Jack a very frightening boy. The Shining is our classic movie this Father’s Day.

PRESHEN GOVENDER 2009/06/24 4:54 PM
  • Rating:
A Father going on a killing spree against his family a great Father’s Day movie
shaun 2009/06/29 8:08 AM
this is a awesome classic movie.and yes,i also find that part with the guy in the bear suite extremely scary.i dont know why...i remember watching this the first time when i was 14 years old.i had the images of those two girls in my head for days.this is one a a very few movies that gave me sleepless nights
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