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Shining, The

"In this hotel, history repeats itself..."

A write, his wife and young child are invited to stay in an isolated hotel during the period where the entire hotel staff leaves their workplace for the winter. In exchange for being lodged, Jack, the father, must maintain the boiling room, repair a few minor things and takes care of the hotelís maintenance. He plans to profit from these six months in semi-solitude to write a novel.

His is first informed that a long time ago a man murdered his own wife and two daughters with an axe due to a prolonged reclusion. While this phenomenon is extremely rare, it can happen but Jack doesnít let this scare him: he trusts himself.

The first few days are clam but solitude quickly settles in, affecting the whole family but especially Jack. His son has a gift allowing him to see and hear what is imperceptible to others. His gift has intensified since his arrival and especially when he walks by a particular room that projects intense negative energy.

The hotel has a good memory and the Indian cemetery it is built on keeps its memories active. Jack quickly becomes irritable and violent. Voices tell him to punish his evil family and he has lots of trouble resisting to them.





This film came out in 1980 and has remained engraved in most everyoneís memory ever since. Stanley Kubrick seems to have given each scene particular attention. He avoids using special effects by preferring to use powerful camera angles and seizing sounds. This is understandable because some of the many of the bookís passages couldnít have been realized without an immense budget and a few more years of progress in digital technology. Later on, Stephen King himself began this task in a televised mini-series for which he wrote the script, dissatisfied with the first version.

The haunting in the hotel isnít suggested, passive or subtle like is often the case in ghost movies. When a spririt takes its place, we know it. They arenít transparent and donít whisper: they stand next to you just like they were truly there. A strident sound distinguishes each scene were something isnít right. This is very effective and its success has grown with the years because these days, we have the impression of having seen everything, having tried everything. Today, too many movies donít give much importance to their characters and when one of them is murdered, we couldnít care less.

The Shining has the ability to make us notice each and every one of its details. A camera on a tripod always follows the characters down the long hallways; giving us the impression that we are discovering what is lies before them at the same time as they do. This leaves room for many surprises. The camera angles, from one to the next, are kept for as long as possible to illustrate simultaneously the time that passes and the size of the rooms.

This technique marvellously succeeds in capturing the phobia of large spaces and isolation, which is the main theme of the film. In addition, the lighting is sublime: the hotel never falls into darkness. This artificial ambient lighting plunges us further into the sickness that, every minute, brings Jack a little bit closer to drowning. We are informed on many occasions on how time has passed since the last scene. At first, the season is indicated, then the month, followed by the day and finally the hours. This count down makes us guess that everything will not finish well.

Hundreds of spirits haunt the castle but they arenít ghosts nor people deceased on location. From what I understood (and no one will have the same interpretation), the cemetery on which the hotel was built absorbs its memories and causes them to be constantly repeated during the winter. This would also be the reason why Jack would be controlled to the point of wanting to kill his family, an event that had already taken place in this hotel.

The concept is difficult to understand and even the book only briefly mentions it. Anyhow, it is because the motives are never explained that this film is so mysterious. The shining (a mix between the theory of the third eye and telepathy), spirits of the living trapped in time, the Indian cemetery and ďTonyĒ, a malefic spirit that manifests itself in young Jackís finger, combine to offer a macabre tale of unexplained phenomena.

An immense maze of hedges, an elevator from which flows a river of blood and Jack Nicholson knocking down a bathroom door with an axe are all elements that left no one indifferent and that are carved in horror movie history. Thankfully for cinema, few have dared copy this masterpiece to this day. The negative aspects are limited and rare are those that are dissatisfied by The Shining. It may be old but it sure still is effective. Shelley Duvallís performance is probably itís weak spot: she acts like a weak and submissive wife. The problem is that she becomes atrociously ugly when she cries. She stiffens and twists in a scary manner. While this may seem like a simple detail, she still consists of one third of the main characters. I suppose it is more realistic and more remarkable this way; she could have been a brave heroin but the film would have suffered. In conclusion, her submissive role is perfectly appropriate for the terror that this classic inspires during each of its seconds.

Final Thoughts

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Memorables aspects
- The ghost of an attractive nude woman transforms into a senile in decomposition, in Jackís arms.
- The elevator from which a river of blood flows.
- The final pursuit in the maze, covered by snow and against cold.

Memorables characters
- Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)

Released in: 1980

Movie type: Horror - Thriller - Haunting - Drama - Diseases

Films in similar category:
Psycho II
House on Haunted Hill
Kiss the Girls

My evaluation
The users (16453 votes)

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( 2002-08-09 )  

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