Movie of the Week: The Shining (1980)


Stanley Kubrick directs Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd in this classic horror based on a Stephen King novel about a family isolated in a haunted hotel. 

One of my favourite films featuring two of my favourite artists’ (Kurbrick and Nicholson) very best work. For the first two acts we get a psychological horror where a family becomes strained and a malevolent presence toys with them and us to breaking point. This measured and virtuoso section matches Don’t Look Now and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me For its indelible shock imagery and patient manipulation. Remember those gliding steadycam tracking shots over mazelike carpets and creaking floorboards… ghosts chasing the doomed. Just think about the timeless, otherworldly threat of Wendy Carlos’ weeping electronic score, a Lovecraftian wail of lamentation. Then Kubrick lets his hair down, probably for the first time since Spartacus, and delivers a true genre experience. A rollercoaster of gore, jumps, rattles and stalking that leaves you breathless with every watch. Nicholson is one of the few stars who seemed to flourish under Kubrick exacting and exhausting production methods. Unlike Kirk, Sellers or Cruise he emerges with his acting personality fully intact and embellished by the production ordeals demanding Stanley lobbed at him. Playing Kubrick’s preffered protagonist – a man losing his soul to forces greater than he can understand -, Nicholson runs at this concept full pelt. His breakdown is unguarded, stark and bold. He goes from wryly untrustworthy to demonically joyous. A threatening pleasure.  “You got a big surprise coming to you.” Stephen King’s horror works are marvels of visual motifs, creeping dread and big stock personalities. His writing style lends itself to cinema. He has been openly hostile about Kubrick’s adaptation of his best book, hating the cold tone and ignored elements. And as great a novelist as King is, his books uniformly have muddled endings. Kubrick takes all that is exciting about King and adds a conclusion that would go on to influence A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jurassic Park, In the Mouth of Madness and Hereditary. Between Kubrick and King, modern movie horror was redefined by The Shining.


My Top 10 Jack Nicholson Movies

1. The Shining (1980)
2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
3. Batman (1989)
4. Reds (1981)
5. Chinatown (1974)
6. The Departed (2006)
7. A Few Good Men (1992)
8. Wolf (1994)

9. Mars Attacks (1996)


10. Five Easy Pieces (1970)

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