Creepy Classics: The Shining (1980)
The countdown to Halloween continues, and we’re transitioning to another classic horror film, The Shining. It was directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, and novelist Diane Johnson helped Kubrick write the script. The film is based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. The story focuses on Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, who takes a caretaker job with his family at an isolated hotel in Colorado. The film stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance, and Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance. The film’s supporting cast also includes Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, and Joe Turkel. The film initially received mixed reviews with its $44 million gross at the box office, but now The Shining is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made.
So, what makes The Shining such an effective and beloved horror film?
1) One Creepy Lead
The character of Jack Torrance is a creepy one as he devolves into madness, and Jack Nicholson plays it tremendously well. The anger and unpredictability that accompanies his character is one thing, but it is the calm, menacing smiles that are the most unsettling in those quiet moments. His conversation with Danny in the bedroom when Jack is unable to sleep is one of the most unsettling conversations of the film and also one of my favorites. The evolution of his breakdown is excellently executed, and Jack Torrance makes for one extremely unstable and terrifying lead character.
2) Those Musical Cues
One of the aspects of the film I have appreciated the most are the various musical cues and the use of its score. The music used on the opening shots and every outdoor shot is sufficiently creepy and sets the tone for the film. However, music is not just effectively used on those outdoor tracking shots. On more than one occasion, the filmmakers use the musical cues to misdirect the audience and build tension at moments that are not actually scary. Overall, the use of music is excellent in this movie and helps establish tone and intent throughout the entire story.
3) One Scared Kid
One of the better performances throughout the story is Danny Llloyd’s portrayal of Danny Torrance. Not only does he give a convincing performance as a kid that is terrified, but he also gives a great performance whenever “Tony” is speaking through him. His often deadpan expressions and trances add to the overall creepiness of the film, and his wits end up saving him. Also, his sequence with the twins in the hallway is superb and as terrifying as any other exchange in the movie.
4) Some Intense Imagery
Perhaps the main claim to fame regarding this film are the stunning visuals and imagery throughout the film. From the opening shots of Jack driving to the hotel to the vastness and expanse of the hotel itself, the film is visually engrossing. The shots of the hotel are some of my favorites and the long corridors and extremely large rooms somehow make the audience even more on edge and almost claustrophobic. Once you couple that with the disturbing images of the woman in the bathtub, the blood gushing from the elevator, and the murdered twins, this film is pretty much unforgettable.
So, have you ever watched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining? What do you think makes it such a classic horror film? Comment and let us know!
Stay tuned next week as we continue onto another creepy classic as we make our way to Halloween.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.