During the summer you may have read the Nine Weeks of Kubrick series I put together after purchasing the then new Stanley Kubrick Limited Edition Blu-Ray box set (if not, you can find it here). Among the films discussed just happened to be what really amounts to my all-time favourite horror film. Why, you may ask? Well, when you think about, there’s just so much to love and dread about The Shining.
Sure, I’ve read the Stephen King story. I know Kubrick’s vision is pretty far off from what King originally envisioned, so much so that it was years before the author could say something great about the film. But a director has to have his vision, and with The Shining, Kubrick gave us his.
The first time I had anything to do with the film, I must have been six or seven years old. My Dad had rented it on VHS and had it playing in the middle of the day. There was a ton of family around, so there was nothing particularly fightening about the movie at the time, but I remember all of us joking that Dad had tried watching it the night before and it had really scared him. The child in me thought that was so funny – Dad wasn’t scared of anything.
Except The Shining.
Then I was 10 years old, watching a version of The Shining I’d taped off the ABC affiliate out of Buffalo, NY that aired late one Saturday night. Even interspersed with commercial breaks at odd moments, even with the blurred out breasts when Jack Torrance is seduced by the woman in Room 237, even with swear words edited to words far less offensive, The Shining left its mark on me. And it’s only gotten deeper since.
What scares me about The Shining? More than Jack Nicholson’s gonzo, go for broke performance, the elevators of blood or Grady’s two young, “corrected” daughters, it’s the genuine sense of isolation that makes The Shining my favourite horror film. The hotel is as much a character in the film as any of the actors, how it seems to go on forever…and ever…and ever (you’ve got to love those tracking shots Kubrick utilizes). It’s the fact that these people are trapped in The Overlook Hotel, not just because of conspiring ghosts and faulty Snowcats, but because of the elements. And there really is nobody who can help them, even if Dick Halloran gives it the old college try and gets an axe in the chest for it.
Of course, there are the performances as well. Jack and Danny’s interaction in the bedroom is always chilling (“You’d never hurt Mom and me, wouldja?”). So is the scene in the men’s room between Jack and Grady, when it’s revealed just how deep a hold The Overlook Hotel could have on Jack (“You’ve always been the caretaker. I ought to know. I’ve always been here”). There’s the instance when Wendy reads Jack’s novel, or the final scene in the hedge maze or the iconic moment when the axe tears through the bathroom door. I could go on and on and on.
Just like any great film in any genre, the best horror seeps into our collective consciousness and doesn’t go away. That’s the brilliance of Kubrick’s The Shining. It sticks with me, to this day. No matter how many times I’ve seen the film, if I’m flipping channels and it’s on, I’ll stop and watch.
Blurred boobs and all.