Kubrick’s horror vision is still as unsettling as ever

The Shining
The Shining

Without a doubt Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ is one of the best horror films for a dark and stormy Hallowe’en night.

From the iconic opening credits with the tiny, battered, yellow car winding its way through the vast rocky mountains to the very last frame, this is one of the most unsettling films of the last 50 years.

Kubrick’s vision may have been very different to that of the original author, Stephen King, and the latter’s disparaging opinion of the film is well documented, but ‘The Shining’ has become an icon in its own right, far removed from the novel.

Jack Nicholson’s performance as the eccentric, alcoholic writer Jack Torrence chills from the outset. And from the first scene, in which he is interviewed for the job as winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel, it is clear that things are going to go drastically wrong.

Jack’s son Danny, the protagonist of the piece, is the one who realised just how evil the hotel really is - thanks to his psychic gift, “the shining” after which the film is named.

And it’s Danny’s visions that prove to be some of the most disturbing aspects of the film. From the spirits of those who have died in the hotel or rivers of blood gushing down the hallways - these are the scenes that stay with you long after the end credits have rolled.

Mention has to be made of the soundtrack. Kubrick uses music throughout the film to great effect and in many cases it is the screeching crescendos dropping to sudden silences that prove the most “jumps”.

Visually, ‘The Shining’ is stunning. Using the geometric shapes and colours of the time (1980) and the maze in the grounds of the hotel to great effect Kubrick creates the impression of being trapped in more ways than one.

While Danny rides his trike around the endlessly pattered corridors of the Overlook we are just as disturbed as when he is running for his life in a snow-filled maze.

But while there are so many good things to say about ‘The Shining’ it is not without its faults. Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrence gives possibly one of the most irritating and misogynistic performances to ever grace the horror genre - quite the mis-achievement.

And the chef, Dick Halloran is criminally under utilised as a fellow ‘shinee’.