The Shining (1980) Review: A Beautiful Cadillac
“Stanley Kubrick’s epic nightmare of horror”
Synopsis: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
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Ludwig von Stroodle:
It’s The Shining; every other scene is iconic and it’s referenced incessantly in pop culture. You already know every memorable line, every scare, and you’ve seen them all parodied a million times. Yet none of that detracts from the film in any way.
There’s so much going on in every scene that there’s new things to notice, appreciate, or speculate over on every viewing. I’m not generally the sort of person who looks too deep for symbolism, but it’s hard to believe there isn’t some depth to this movie. The plot doesn’t exactly make sense and there’s a lot the filmmakers don’t explain… but in this case, instead of seaming lazy it adds an interesting layer of mystery that’s fun to ponder over. I don’t think the world will ever stop wondering what the hell the deal was with the guy in the bear costume.
The only part of the movie that hasn’t aged well is the relationship between Jack (Jack Nicholson) and Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and the general vein of sexism running through it. Everything else about The Shining has a timeless feel, but when hotel staff meet Wendy and immediately take her to the kitchen, it just instantly feels dated and it’s hard not to cringe a little. Likewise, the patriarchal family dynamics and verbal and emotional abuse dumped on Wendy may have been considered more normal at the time, but it really stands out now and undermines the idea that Jack was just a normal guy driven mad by the hotel (Jack Nicholson generally comes off as a lunatic, so that doesn’t help either.) It’s not Stanley Kubrick’s fault; the movie is a product of the times, but it still ruins the immersion a bit.
There’s so many other interesting and impossibly detailed reviews of The Shining that I’m just going to stop here. You should see it, if you somehow haven’t.
Ludwig von Stroodle’s Rating: A
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is excellent from a technical standpoint. The cinematography is both gorgeous and effective at maintaining a creepy, tense atmosphere throughout the movie. The film is also sprinkled with tiny nuances that require a second or third watch to catch and add to the atmosphere.
The problem is the story. (And while I realize this will not be a popular opinion, it’s shared by Stephen King himself*, so I think I’m justified in making this point.) Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s famous novel doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Not only do both Wendy and Jack seem fairly unstable already at the beginning of the movie, rather than being normal people slowly falling apart, but the titular gift their son Danny (Danny Lloyd) has is completely irrelevant. From a story point of view, The Shining is a mess; Kubrick chose to include tidbits from the book that aren’t explained and also changed some major plot points that would have strengthened the story.
That being said, The Shining is still very watchable. Taking it more as an artistic piece allows me to appreciate the beauty and mood of it, rather than getting thoroughly distracted in frustration. There’s a reason this movie has endured as a classic – and if you’re a horror fan or a cinema fan, it’s a necessary watch.
(But if you’re used to deconstructing literature and thinking about character arcs, proceed with caution.)
*”There’s a lot to like about it. But it’s a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside. You can sit in it, you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery — the only thing you can’t do is drive it anywhere.” -Stephen King, in an interview with American Film
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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