#58: The Shining (1980)

When and how did I watch this?

January 11th, 2017, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Yes.  I stayed up until 2 AM watching it on TV several years ago.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

It only took one viewing for me to remember it for the rest of my life.  In this Kubrick masterpiece, much of the imagery is startling — Danny’s iconic pedaling about the hallways, the bathtub scene, and the series of hallucinations Wendy undergoes in the end. It became the most terrifying film I’d ever seen.

What do I know about it now?

I dared to watch this again, but this time I had company to view it with, about fifteen years more of life experience, and an awareness of what was coming next. The second, more “mature” viewing allowed for a more analytical approach to the coloring and an understanding of the cinematography, particularly regarding the sound and the use of a Steadicam. Even with this objective approach, I still got goosebumps, particularly at the quick cuts of facial expressions and the fast zoom moments (the bear costume — oy). Some scenes I appreciated more thoroughly: all of the interactions with Jack in the Gold Room, the conversation between Jack and Danny in the hotel room, and Danny’s chilling escapades around the hallway corners, finally encountering the curiously aged twins (who are actually no twins at all). The film touches on some biblical/spiritual truths as well. When Danny sits down with Dick upon the family’s arrival, Dick describes how some have what’s called “the shining”, or an extrasensory perception of something “left behind” — definitively, spirits. The Torrance family — primarily Jack — is subject to these spirits over time, and it begs the question, if you’re willing or perceptive to address it, regarding whether we should ever dabble in the spiritual realm. The Shining, whether or not it’s intentional, advocates the danger of doing so. As a film, the topic isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but simply to illustrate the madness associated with overseeing the Overlook Hotel and its ghosts within. The task, and the consequences of undertaking it, are demanding indeed.

The idea of this series of blogs is to react to the films and not necessarily analyze them to a deeper level, but this film certainly warrants introspection. I won’t do it here either, but it’s worth noting that there are few films with so many scenes and layers of depth to investigate. A Google search will back up my claim.

What are some themes in the film?

Spirits and discernment, pride, abuse, alcoholism, unconditional love

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  Several scenes have stuck to my memory over the years.  Fortunately, because of this “project”, many of those scenes have transformed from eliciting fear to prompting admiration for their execution on screen.

Why is this ranked #58?

The Shining might be the greatest horror film of all time.  While it’s possible it’s not the scariest, it is likely the best filmed and produced in the genre. Kubrick dominates the IMDb Top 250, and I believe Dr. Strangelove is the only higher-ranked film.  I know nothing of it, but The Shining is certainly the best of his I’ve seen so far.  The film also carries a cult classic label, and features Jack Nicholson in one of his best and most memorable roles.  Everyone knows about the “Here’s Johnny!” line, as well as the nefarious apparition of the twins.

Did my wife watch/like it?

I warned her to stay away from this one.

Would I watch it again?

I thought I’d never want to, but further objective viewings for the sake of analysis is not out of the question.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Some people I’ve talked to have said they weren’t affected by the film. I say they weren’t paying attention.  It’s one of the more unsettling movies I’ve seen, and might be challenging for some folks sensitive to the themes.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The AFI 100 doesn’t bother putting this one on their list, and I’m uncertain why.  Apart from being wholly unnerving and having a permanent effect on the viewer, the meticulousness applied to the film shows off Kubrick’s genius. It was the first film of his I saw, and still reigns as his finest in my opinion. It’s a masterpiece deserving of a place alongside the greatest films of all time.

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