Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Shining (1980) #review

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

I have a terrible admission to make – but better late than never, amiright? I only watched The Shining for the first time this year. Yes. I’ve been lurking around on this planet for more than 30 years and I’d NEVER EVER EVER watched this masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick.

Also, I absolutely loathe Jack Nicholson. I don’t know what it is about him – his face, his voice. I agree he’s a fantastic actor but he makes my flesh crawl and he was perfect for this role as Jack Torrance, the author who simply cannot get into his novel. The true star of this film is his long-suffering wife Wendy, who somehow keeps it all together when everyone else around her is going completely stark-raving bonkers. Little Danny’s premonitions are creepy, but even creepier still is the location.

Kudos to the set dressers and builders – the interiors of the Overlook Hotel are phenomenal and a fitting tribute to all that is awful about late-1970s d├ęcor. Kubrick manages to make me feel horrifically claustrophobic and paranoid all at once. Trapped like Jack and his family, we can only sit back and watch how Jack spirals into madness, and we know things aren’t going to end well. All the while poor, dear Wendy comes to realise she needs to get herself and her son out of this place – easier said than done when the inevitable blizzard cuts them off from the rest of this world. And she’s resilient, tenacious, and she’s a mother who’s absolutely terrified beyond all belief yet she just doesn’t give up.

Yep, there are the tropes, like the magical negro and the psychic children tropes, but Kubrick plays them well. Besides, the tormented author with writers’ block is possibly one of the oldest literary tropes in the box.

I’ve heard so many people go on and on about why this film is a pinnacle of its art, and I can see why. Everything holds together – the tension, the dialogue, the characterisation. I’ll be honest and say it’s not my sort of film because I’m a shallow creature with simple tastes for nubile androgynous elves, but I watched it from start to finish without even getting distracted by my social media feeds because it was simply perfection. The horror is at times subtle, be it the growing sense of menace of a toxic environment or it’s overt, shocking in the flashes of atrocities that Kubrick depicts. (Let me not remember that hotel in Ireland where I had to hang my bedspread over the multiple mirrors before I could get to sleep.)

I’m also aware that this film has been picked apart to death by film aficionados who’ve read all sorts of meaning into things, and that in itself is a fascinating topic to delve into if you’ve got time to waste. Go trawl YouTube if you number among the idly curious. And if you’re a sad old fart like me who waited until her late-30s to see this film… I’m just going to shake my head at you. Watch this fucking film. Seriously.

No. I haven't read the fucking book yet. I'll get there. When I'm 50.

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