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The Shining

Discographies
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Movies
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Reviews

Reclusive perfectionist Stanley Kubrick may not be prolific (he directed only three films between 1975 and 1999), but his movies have a way of penetrating the public consciousness. In the case of 1980's The Shining, it's obvious that Kubrick's movie has achieved greater cultural resonance than the Stephen King bestseller it's based on. The image of Jack Nicholson axing through a splintered door and snarling "Heeeeere's Johnny!" is an all-time highlight of cinematic horror. A 1997 TV miniseries followed King's book more closely, but it pales in comparison to the chilling effect of Kubrick's interpretation. It's a grandiose haunted-house tale in which Nicholson takes his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son to the secluded Overlook Hotel to serve as off-season caretaker, and proceeds to suffer a psychological breakdown that can't be attributed to cabin fever alone. The Overlook has a violent past that echoes throughout the building, and while young Danny (Danny Lloyd) senses this frightening legacy through the prescient gift of "the shining," his father deteriorates into a state of homicidal psychosis. Defying the cheap-shock traditions of 1980's horror, Kubrick chooses instead to emphasize a study of mental decay and the timeless homicidal impulse; the film's technical innovation (through astonishing set design and pioneering use of the Steadicam) serves an increasingly unsettling collision of past and present horrors. It's more of an intellectual horror film than a conventional fright-fest, but it's still effectively creepy, and as he turns into a sneering killer, smilin' Jack makes a fine addition to Kubrick's rogue's gallery of memorable movie psychos. 
--Jeff Shannon

Commentary

When Jack Torrance finds a job as a caretaker for an old, abandoned hotel during the winter, he thinks of it as the perfect place to focus on his writing. Even his son's misgivings about the move don't deter him. But soon after the Torrances arrive, strange things start happening... and it looks as if the spooky hotel has a plan of its own for Jack and his family.

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