I think perhaps that this could be the most un-Kubrick film in the collection so far. Rather than being an out-and-out artistic masterclass, The Shining concentrates even more on the characters and the building tension. That’s not to say that it isn’t pretty to look at. Right from the word go there is some beautiful aerial photography, and there are myriad iconic scenes scattered throughout.
The main reason to see The Shining is Jack Nicholson; he owns this film like a boss. He is wonderfully eccentric, and increasingly manic as his mental state deteriorates. He is so gleeful as he is talking to Mr Grady (Philip Stone) and accusing him of killing his wife and daughters; not to mention his wonderful three little pigs story culminating in Heeerrrre’s Johnny! He is really fascinating to watch in this role. Alongside Jack is Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy who is very subdued compared to her husband, and spends the last third of the film in tears. As a character, Wendy is quite polar to Jack’s, but despite all the screaming and tears has a fairly strong resolve; she whacks Jack with a baseball bat when he gets too close, and is quick to cut his hand with a knife as he tries to unlock the bathroom door.
The tension is ramped up slowly as the film progresses. A particularly effective method is following Danny (Danny Lloyd) as he rides his trike around the hotel; this allows for the sudden disturbing appearance of the murdered twins, or a suddenly open door (scarier than it sounds!). The atmosphere is helped along by the music (which actually reminded me a lot of Scanners). I also like the way that as Danny was having one of his premonitions, a high pitched whining noise would build and build until eventually the screen would cut to an information card that said “Tuesday” or whichever day it was! Expecting something awful to happen as the music builds the viewer is then completely thrown.
A gripping thriller that is perfectly paced, beautifully made (I sound like a broken record reviewing Kubrick’s films), and wonderfully acted by the main man Jack Nicholson. The Shining isn’t a traditional horror film, but as a story of a man whose descends into madness brought on by the isolation of The Overlook Hotel, it’s pretty terrifying.