Thursday, October 13, 2011

Favourite Halloween Movies: The Shining

"All work and no play make Jack a dull boy."
I thought it'd be fun to write about some of my favourite horror films in the days leading up to Halloween. Last week I did Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Second on my list ...The Shining (1980).
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Based on the Novel by: Stephen King
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd

Kubrick's films have always managed to leave me feeling unsettled. But I can never pinpoint exactly what it is that I find so disturbing about them. Whether it's his eerie classic The Shining or a non-horror film like Full Metal Jacket or even Dr. Strangelove, I'm always left impressed with how well Kubrick was able to capture the dark atmosphere lying just beneath the surface. It's a testament to his talent as a director to have you on the edge of your seat without ever really knowing why. With The Shining we actually know why we are on the edge of our seats; yet, Kubrick manages to keep us on edge even if we've read the novel and know the outcome. No easy feat.

Why I Love It: Growing up, I was a hardcore Stephen King devotee. At one point, I read his books as if no other author in the world existed. Although it has been years since I last read a King novel, The Shining was always one of my favourites. The thought of being trapped in an empty hotel over the long winter season with a father who is rapidly losing his mind gives the plot a claustrophobic tension that is hard to shake.

It's a cold, yet stylish, masterpiece of a film and an excellent how-to guide for future directors on how to slowly build and create atmosphere by using vivid visuals and pushing its main actors to the brink.

Few films are this psychologically overwhelming -- a close examination of madness (and what madness can ultimately set loose within a confined space), Kubrick provides the audience with a glimpse of how powerful a film can be when the central characters are unreliable narrators -- Jack, Wendy and Danny are either all off their rockers or onto something with regards to the hostile energies in the hotel.

Although the film does have its critics, its deliberate pace and gradual build to its climax ensures it will continue to remain a classic of the horror genre. Kubrick also manages to, arguably, make the ending even better than in King's original novel. With Nicholson leading the charge in an over-the-top, yet perfectly creepy, performance, The Shining is a must-see for any film fan.

Favourite Scene: An example of how one single, close-up shot, without any dialogue, can both leave the viewer unsettled and suddenly change the direction and momentum of the plot at the same time.