Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, and Barry Nelson
A long shot follows a small yellow car driving through the mountains. The car eventually arrives at the Overlook Hotel. There, Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) waits for his appointment with Mr. Ullman (Barry Nelson), the hotel manager. After quick pleasantries, the pair get on with Torrence’s interview for the caretaker position at the hotel while it is closed for the winter. During the course of the interview Mr. Ullman reveals the unfortunate past of the Overlook Hotel and a previous caretaker who went crazy with cabin fever and murdered his daughters and wife.
At the same time back at Jack’s apartment, his wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) are having lunch. After lunch, Danny is in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he starts talking with Tony, his imaginary friend that lives in his mouth. Tony reveals to Danny that his father got the job; shortly after which the phone rings and it is Jack telling Wendy he got the job. Tony, after pleading from Danny, then reveals the dangers of the Overlook Hotel which causes Danny to pass-out.
After a visit by the doctor OK’ing Danny and a quick family talk, the Torrence Family is on their way to the Overlook Hotel. Once there, each member of the family is given a tour of the facilities: Jack to his duties, Wendy to the apartment and hotel kitchen, and Danny to the game room. It is during this tour that Danny meets Mr. Halloran (Scatman Crothers), and discovers that Mr. Halloran also has the same telepathic and clairvoyant abilities that he has. Mr. Halloran names it the shining.
Soon the hotel is shuttered for the winter and the Torrence family is left alone. Jack begins writing his novel, and Wendy & Danny make themselves busy. But something is not right in the hotel, and the hotel itself seems to be having a malevolent effect on Jack and a haunting effect on Danny. The fragile Wendy is left to protect herself and her son from the growing insanity of the hotel.
The Shining is the perfect melding of subject and director. Kubrick’s ability to frame shots and maddening need for take after take to get his perfect shot resulted in a visually satisfying picture, as well as career best performance from all involved.
Duvall has called her time filming The Shining her Vietnam, and it shows on-screen. Her character comes across as fragile and barely keeping it together. But due to the circumstances of what is happening around her and what happens to the men in her family, she is able to rise to the occasion to save her and Danny’s lives. Jack Nicholson always has a sense of edge from the first time you meet him, and you instantly know everything is not write with Jack Torrence. This serves the story well because initially you are not sure if the craziness you see around Jack is actually happening or if it is all in his head. Danny Lloyd also delivers an incredible performance as the innocent Danny. He to is able to rise to the occasion, but being so young is not always able to ward off the menace of the hotel that constantly surrounds him.
Through good story adaptation, clever editing, and great performances, Kubrick keeps you guessing as to whether the Overlook itself is actually haunted or if everything you are watching is a manifestation of Jack’s eventual insanity. Before a key point in the story all the disturbing images and “ghosts” that are witnessed in the Overlook are only seen by either Jack or Danny. With Jack you are not sure if they are in his head, and with Danny you are not sure if he is channeling Jack’s craziness. It is only after the key event that you realize the hotel itself is haunted and all hell breaks loose. Throughout the entire film Wendy serves as the audience surrogate. Once she starts to see the ghosts and disturbing goings-on do you know for sure the hotel is haunted.
The Shining is more disturbing than gory. It functions more as a ghost tale told by the fire than a slasher film. With that being said and as with most Kubrick films, it stays with you haunting your dreams.
Grade = A-