THE SHINING. 1980. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STEPHEN KING. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY STANLEY KUBRICK. STARRING JACK NICHOLSON AND SHELLEY DUVALL. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a good ‘un. Some Stephen King novels- not all of them- make for fantastic films. CARRIE is one of these. Ditto MISERY, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE and DOLORES CLAIBORNE. THE SHINING is definitely another. The plot is a real corker. Let’s have a brief overview.
Jack Torrance, clearly not one of life’s winners, takes a job as seasonal caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. He and his wife Wendy and young son Danny will live by themselves in the hotel all winter and keep things ticking over until the staff and guests return in the summer.
Sounds like a cushy number, but there are downsides. One of these is the sheer isolation of the hotel’s location. There won’t be a soul for miles around, added to which they’ll definitely be snowed in at some point as well.
More importantly, though, is the fact that a previous caretaker went cuckoo-bananas during the long cold winter months and ran amok with an axe, killing his wife and twin daughters. Will Jack be able to handle the job, his new employers ask him? Sure thing, he tells them. No problem. When do I start…?
By the way, did I forget to mention that the hotel was built on the site of a Native American burial ground? I did? Whoopsies. How silly of me. That ought to explain every gosh-darned thing that happens in the film from this point on.
The Torrance family move into the hotel, lock, stock and barrel. Straight-away we see that Jack, brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson, is ever-so-slightly below par as a husband and father, maybe even verging on the abusive. A month at the Overlook does nothing to improve his foul temper.
Jack sits around the place pretending to write his version of the great American novel, all the while growing weirder and less and less communicative and civil towards his long-suffering wife.
Then one day cute little Danny, who has the ability to read minds (the shining) and predict the future, encounters a crazy lady in the bathroom of one of the supposed-to-be-empty hotel bedrooms and, what’s more, he has the scars to prove it…
THE SHINING is a masterclass in tension-building. Not only do we already know that something horrible has happened in this accursed hotel, but at every turn we’re confronted with hints and indications that something just as bad, or maybe even worse, is fast coming down the track.
Jack Nicholson gives a faultless performance as the man who is growing crazier with each passing day. Shelley Duvall is equally convincing as the wife who has to face the chilling fact that her husband, the man who’s supposed to love and protect her, is quite possibly the biggest threat to her and her little boy’s safety.
The film has given us a load of much-parodied and imitated iconic images and memes: ‘Here’s Johnny…!’ as Jack Nicholson chops down the bathroom door with his axe, the freaky identical twin girls, the blood and the lift and, of course, ‘redrum.’
The colours and patterns used in the hotel’s decor- the burnt orange, brown and yellow swirls and checks so popular in the ‘Seventies- add to the claustrophobic feel of this supposedly spacious hotel and help to ramp up the tension several notches more.
Throw in a great script, great direction and a catalogue of ever-increasing shocks and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece. I don’t think there’s any more that I can add, really. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and take my bath now…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: