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The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubricks The Shining

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 119 minutes

UK Certificate: 18


More than twenty years after we first saw Jack Nicholson hack his way through the toilet door without even checking whether or not the occupant was in mid-business, ‘The Shining’ continues to put the browners on viewers old and new. I’ve watched this film more times than I can remember, and even though I now know exactly what’s coming and where, it still sends an uneasy chill up my spine. It’s downright disturbing, is what it is.

This timeless creepfest stars Nicholson as a struggling novelist who, along with his lank-haired missus Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their dribble-mouthed son Danny (Danny Lloyd), takes a job as winter caretaker in an apparently empty hotel. The fact that’s it’s the scene of a previous grisly murder and built on an Indian burial ground should set alarm bells ringing, but it seems there’s only one person willing to point out how bad an idea the whole thing is. And that’s Tony, the gruff-voiced “imaginary” friend who talks through Danny’s finger. Suffice to say, they should all have listened to the kid’s finger.

Nicholson’s display in this is quite simply superb. His gradual descent into outright madness seems unfounded, but there’s a strange credibility to his performance that makes such logic seem almost irrelevant. He’s the only Hollywood star I know of who can completely over-act, yet remain totally believable.

Director Stanley Kubrick tends to stray from the original Stephen King novel, but brings to the story his own brand of visual perfection. Long shots down endless corridors underline the sheer size of the hotel, whilst rapid cuts to an increasing array of ghostly apparitions are unnerving in a way few films have been able to match since.

If Kubrick’s intention is to unsettle the viewer, then his film’s got its objective down to a tee – but the downside is a plot that often doesn’t make sense, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the book. The film is riddled with perplexities and even, dare I say it, gaping plot holes – yet taking your eyes off it is virtually impossible. That’s just Kubrick though. His painstaking attention to minor detail is well-documented (to the point that our Jack apparently threw more than one wobbler on the set of this one) yet he leaves loose ends all over the place. His treatment of the overall story would seem almost sloppy, if it wasn’t completely brilliant.

It's Got: A scary kid – with an even scarier bowl-cut hairdo – who was “seeing dead people” when Haley Joel Osment was just a glint in the milkman’s eye.

It Needs: A lock on room 237.

DVD Extras ‘Making The Shining’, a documentary with choice of commentary from director Vivien Kubrick (that’s Stanley’s daughter, in case you’re wondering). DVD Extras Rating: 3/10


One of the horror genre’s finest, this isn’t a film to watch if you’re about to spend the winter alone. In a hotel. Full of ghosts. And axes.