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The Shining

The Shining

Released 2 November 2012
Director Stanley Kubrick

Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone
Writer(s) Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Producer(s) Stanley Kubrick
Origin United Kingdom, United States
Running Time 144 minutes
Genre Horror
Rating 16

We all Shine on.

What more can be said about The Shining? Surely there isn’t anybody out there who hasn’t seen this, or at the very least seen The Simpsons episode parodying it.

But then again if you take a look at the recent horror releases in cinemas, you’ll find they don’t compare too well. Sinister actually starts out like something from a Stephen King novel, and like The Shining its early moments are genuinely unsettling for no clear reason. But Sinister loses its way towards the end, descending into total ridiculousness. Even worse is Paranormal Activity 4, which actually features a young boy riding around on a big wheel tricycle in homage to that famous tracking shot from The Shining. But this comparison serves only to remind the audience that Paranormal Activity 4 is totally unable to provide the kind of memorable unhinged horror of The Shining, relying on forgettable jump out shocks instead.

Maybe this comparison is unfair. After all The Shining is one of the best horror films ever made, rightly considered a classic of the genre. And yet, it has very little in common with most of the other films it is often compared to. For one thing there is very little use of shadows or darkness – perhaps the most universal requirement of horror cinema – almost all of The Shining takes place during the daytime in well-lit hotel rooms. Stephen King was understandably annoyed with Stanley Kubrick after he first seen the film, for the director deviated wildly from the source material, dumping lots of the more traditional haunted house aspects from King’s story. But this movement away from the typical conventions of horror films is what makes The Shining what it is.

From that amazing opening helicopter photography, following a tiny car through a gigantic empty wilderness, The Shining casts its viewer out of their comfort zone, into a place where anything can happen. It is a psychological odyssey into madness, and the depths to which one deranged father can sink are far scarier than anything supernatural.

On a big screen, in the dark, this is something else. Jack Nicholson’s towering performance is all kinds of unsettling. The long winding corridors of the Overlook Hotel stretch out endlessly. The beautifully crafted wide focus shots are like moving works of art. The point I’m making is that The Shining is just one of those films that is better on the big screen.

The reason for the re-release is that the version currently showing includes about twenty-five minutes of footage cut from the film’s initial European release (the footage was restored for the American version, so it isn’t exactly unseen). These additional scenes consist mostly of back story and character development. Far from making the film drag, they serve to turn the screw of suspense another couple of notches.

Taken as a whole, The Shining is a masterpiece of suspense and psychological horror. Unlike its modern counterparts it mostly avoids hitting its audience in the face with jump out shocks, but instead burrows under the skin and leaves a lingering feeling of unease. The film is so rich and layered that it has brought any number of interpretations over the years (the documentary Room 237, also showing now, explores the wildest of these theories and is well worth checking out). The reason for this is that the film has enough detail to endlessly reward repeated viewings, and the deeply rooted psychological nature of its horror means The Shining still retains the power to frighten after all these years.

- Bernard O’Rourke