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Cult Classic Review: ‘The Shining’

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Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is arguably one of the best psychological thrillers ever made.

The film was adapted from the novel “The Shining,” written by Stephen King.

If you’ve seen a Kubrick movie, you already know that his directing style is atypical. Unlike most thrillers of our generation, “The Shining” relies heavily on background music, setting, lighting and character development to express its major plot points.

Using these devices, Kubrick was able to craft a truly psychologically disturbing movie.

The main character Jack (Jack Nicholson) plays a recovering alcoholic and former teacher who accepts a job position as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Since Jack is looking after the hotel in the off season, the hotel manager warns him that previous caretakers have had issues with cabin fever, and the fate of one of these prior caretakers was severe. Charles Grady (a former caretaker) had become mentally unstable while tending to the hotel and murdered his wife and two daughters with an axe, and then shot himself in the head. Jack doesn’t seem to be phased by this chilling tale, and accepts the job offer.

While visiting the Overlook Hotel, Jack’s son, Danny, sees the emergence of a strange and unique talent called “the Shining.”

It enabled him to see flashes of the terrible events that once occurred in the hotel, and flashes of the events that later occur.

Jack’s wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is a mousy little woman who constantly attempts to unite the family, though to no avail.

As Jack’s mental state collapses, his family becomes threatened by his manic state.

“The Shining” failed to take off as soon as it was introduced to the box office, but critics were quick to speak about the film.

“The Shining” was also one of Kubrick’s films that won no awards. However, this movie can easily be considered a cult classic because of the unique way in which it was filmed.

There are many notable one-liners in the film, such as “Here’s Johnny!” “Words of wisdom,” and “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

There is a good possibility that a clip of two twin girls holding hands in a long hotel hallway is quickly recognized as a scene from “The Shining.”

This scene has been referenced as a parody in multiple popular television shows, such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” In the episode of “Family Guy” called “Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater,” Stewie walks down a hallway to see the two girls beckoning him to play. He responds to them by repeating the line from the film: “All work and no play makes Stewie a dull boy.” He then proceeds to blow them up with a bazooka.

The television show “Gilmore Girls” references “The Shining” in at least five different episodes, and Tim Burton claims to have based his characters “Tweedle Dee” and “Tweedle Dum” after the Grady twins in his film adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“The Shining” is also referenced in many music videos by bands such as “30 Seconds to Mars,” “Slipknot,” “Alice in Chains” and others.

Not only is the film often referenced today, but it could even be argued that it set the precedent for every psychological thriller created after its time.

In terms of production, the film was progressive for its time. The “Steadicam” method of filming was revolutionary, and “The Shining” was one of the first 10 movies to use this technology. The famous scenes following Danny around the hotel on his big wheel were only made possible by the use of “Steadicam.”

It is rumored that King wrote the original novel after staying in the (now famous) Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo. Kubrick chose to use the Timberline Lodge (on Mount Hood) in Oregon as the Overlook Hotel in the film.

At the time, the set for “The Shining” was the largest ever built, and it included an entire re-creation of the exterior of the hotel. Due to the ominous reputation of room 217 in the novel, Timberline Lodge actually requested that Kubrick change the room number in the film to 237 so that future guests would not be inclined to avoid the real room 217.

One of the most compelling things about the film is that it doesn’t need much blood or violence to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats. In fact, if one watched the movie entirely without audio, it may not be that frightening.

Between the eerie faces Nicholson produces and Kubrick’s subtle yet brilliant ways of building suspense, it becomes a movie one would not want to watch alone in the dark. For Kubrick fans and dark cinema enthusiasts alike, “The Shining” is a must-see.

kotte@unews.com

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1 COMMENT

  1. The review of “The Shining” brought back many memories. The analysis of the movie was spot on. This is a very gifted writer. I look forward to more reviews. She deserves a raise.

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