A Horror Masterpiece
When it comes to genre-defining horror, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is in every way, shape and form a masterpiece. From its odd stylistic choices to the unnerving atmospheric horror that suffocates every beautifully crafted scene, The Shining is, and will forever be known as, one of the most unique and unsettling horror films ever made.
The story begins with an aerial view of a breathtaking mountain range as reclusive writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) drives his family to an isolated cabin for the winter. Once there, things are not what they seem and it becomes apparent that an evil spiritual presence lurks in the shadows, stalking Jack while his psychic son begins witnessing frightening images from the past and future.
Stylistically, Stanley Kubrick’s films have always had a sense of artistry and uniqueness about them but oftentimes it all feels a little pretentious or artistic for the sake of it. When it comes to The Shining, everything feels tightened and perfected in such a compelling way that the off-kilter composition and eerily long segments of silence enhance the overall feel of the film. Sharp bites of harsh piano and violin string segments bring a mastery to the sound design that works harmoniously with the overall visual design of the film.
All of this would account for nothing if the acting wasn’t on point and thankfully an excellent performance from Jack Nicholson helps solidify the film’s appeal. His descent into madness is really the driving force of the film and everything from his general demeanour during some of the creepy and frightening segments to the perfect delivery of dialogue play perfectly into his unhinged persona. Although Shelley Duvall’s portrayal as his deranged wife is overshadowed by Nicholson somewhat, a few of her scenes really help sell Jack’s madness. Danny (Danny Lloyd) rounds out the trio nicely with his mysterious psychic powers and some of his scenes, including one memorable moment down a hotel hallway, will forever stand out as one of the most iconic segments in horror.
Although other horror films have managed to craft pure scares and an impending sense of dread better than The Shining, Kubrick’s masterpiece outshines all of them through its masterful use of atmosphere and smart compositional tricks. Building on the great work done with his previous filming ventures, The Shining is a crowning achievement in the horror genre and the perfect example of how to adapt horror fiction to the big screen while tweaking and adjusting certain elements to heighten the suspense and mood. The Shining is a benchmark for horror to aspire to and one that very few have managed to come close to matching, making this one of the best in its chosen genre.