“Nothing. There ain’t nothing in Room 237, cialis but you ain’t got no business going in there anyway, so stay out! You understand, stay out!”
Dick Hallorann, the hotel’s chef warns young Danny Torrance when he enquires about room 237. Dick recognises that the boy, like him, possesses clairvoyant gifts. Danny communicates what he sees through his ‘imaginary’ friend Tony. But Danny is very much not in control of these abilities.
Danny’s father Jack Torrance has taken a job as winter caretaker at a remote mountain hotel. Jack was unperturbed when the manager tells him that a previous caretaker went crazy one winter and butchered his family and then killed himself. Jack, his wife and son move in on Oct 31st and are soon snowed in. Jack just quit drinking and hopes that a snowy winter retreat will help him with his writing. Soon after he becomes possessed, either by personal demons induced by cabin fever or by a dark supernatural presence at the hotel. He begins to loose his faculties and descend into madness; he has murder in mind and his wife and son are the only others present. Danny continues to sense dangerous undercurrents in the hotel. In Miami, where he spends the winter, Dick Hallorann becomes restless and senses danger at the hotel. He makes the journey back to investigate.
This film from 1980 is loosely based on a novel by Stephen King. It is director Stanley Kubrick’s only horror film and one of only two films he made in 80s. Its stars Jack Nicholson in the leading role, then well established throughout the 70s as a versatile leading man, but with a penchant for playing erratic or unhinged characters. In the opening scene the heat of his devilish charisma and Cheshire cat grin threaten to burn up the spools of celluloid in Kubrick‘s camera.
It is a film without a reliable narrator; Jack is growing more and more psychotic, Danny is near paralysed in psychic terror and his mother Wendy tries to reassure him but she is soon hyperventilating and frightened to her core, as Jack approaches (Here‘s Johnny!) with a shiny new axe. The only completely trustworthy observer is Dick Hallorann. But will he make in back to the hotel in time?
Kubrick’s usual attention to detail is reason enough to watch this film. The film boasts stunning set design, interesting shot direction, long tracking shots (see Danny exploring the vast hotel on his ‘Big Wheel’ tricycle.) and an eerie classical score, which together create an atmosphere soaked in tension, uncertainty and dread. By the end, every pore of the Overlook Hotel radiates with open-ended macabre terror. Whether you are looking for a rearranging of your nervous system around Halloween, a master class in film making from the Kubrick rubric, or a scenery-chewing Jack Nicholson performance, you can’t go wrong with The Shining.
The film, more than anything else, is a study of madness, a madness that sometimes brims under the gentile surface in a white, patriarchal society. This theme was also explored by Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange.
The Shining also serves as a stark reminder that it is never a good idea to build a hotel on an ancient Indian burial ground. NAMA boys be warned.
So grizzly ghouls and demons, as the midnight hour falls, and you relax in your bile-stained hovels with your disembowelled best fiends, gorging on blood and entrail splattered popcorn and slurping your rancid cola through a pig’s torn-out artery, stick this DVD in and check in to the Overlook Hotel for what should be a most memorable stay.