Don’t worry mom. I know all about cannibalism. I saw it on TV. – Danny Torrance
Arguably one of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest achievements is his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The film is often cited as one of the greatest in cinema history. The camera work, the mood, performances and sparing use of effects and scares have it placed up there not just as a seminal horror film. But a seminal film respected even by those who deride the genre we love so dearly.
But upon rewatching this movie I was struck by just how many horror tropes it manages to fit into a single feature. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) plays what we know realize is just a fictionalized version of a young Stephen King. Those unfamiliar with the plot should just stop reading immediately and go watch the movie.
In the first 15 minutes we find out that Jack is a recently sober drunk, that the previous caretaker axe murdered his wife and twin daughters, the hotel is built on an ancient native american burial ground, and little Danny has “the shining” a sort of ESP.
That is right folks one of the greatest films in cinematic history is full of everything anyone could ever want in a horror film. Ghosts, creepy psychic children, axe murders, living on top of old native burial grounds, elevators full of blood, Diane Arbus style little girls, references to the Donner Party and Shelley Duvall shrieking and sobbing and smoking (nobody smokes like Shelley) like no one else ever has or will again.
The Shining is kind of like Citizen Kane in that it changed the genre forever and it’s influence can be found in everything from Funny Games to American Horror Story. But unlike Citizen Kane it is actually fun to watch and worth every last drop of hype it gets.