Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Nominee #13 - The Shining (1980)
The Shining follows the Torrance family. When Jack Torrance becomes the winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel, young Danny Torrance begins to uncover a darker side of the Overlook through psychic visions.
The Shining (1980) is often considered the greatest horror film. Whether the film deserves that title is left for audiences to decide however, The Shining is undoubtedly an expertly crafted classic that stands the test of time and that has inspired almost every work of horror after it.
Adapted from Stephen King’s novel, The Shining follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Jack becomes the winter caretaker of the Overlook hotel during its off season, Jack plans to use the time to work on his writing while his wife and son explore the hotel, finding various ways to enjoy their isolation in the mountains. However, after young Danny Torrance begins to uncover a darker side of the Overlook through psychic visions.
Kubrick understood atmosphere. This was evident throughout his filmography, from the atmosphere of the endless void of space in 2001 A Space Odyssey to the intensity of the barracks in Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick could craft a setting around the audience like no other director could at the time and few can today. With The Shining Kubrick builds the perfect atmosphere for a horror film, complete isolation, blizzards, an enormous but empty hotel and the immense weight of silence.
Ironically, despite the sweeping landscapes and the infinite hallways at the Overlook, Kubrick creates a suffocating sense of claustrophobia. The characters have everything they need, food to last months, radio systems, a snow truck and yet we know they’re trapped. Even before things start to go wrong, we feel that looming danger and Kubrick subtly sprinkles clues that point to the horror that the hotel hides.
Nicholson and Duvall bring exceptional performances to the film and flawlessly depict a crumbling and eventually violent relationship. Jack Torrance’s descent to madness was vital to the film, without the mastery of an actor like Nicholson the film would collapse.
The Shining is terrifying.
The spiral into insanity is half the horror of the film, we watch a sensible, even pleasant man become twisted by evil till we no longer recognize the character we were introduced to and Nicholson delivers a performance that has inspired generations and remains to this day one of the most iconic and terrifying characters he has portrayed.
Kubrick creates an encompassing terror without the use of the typical horror tropes. With little graphic imagery and gore and a complete absence of jump scares the horror of The Shining is within its atmosphere, the unexplained scenes that build the mystery, the unsettling score and Oscar worthy performances.
The Shining is terrifying. It’s a word misused and overused in the genre of horror, rarely is a film worthy to be described as terrifying. The Shining deserves that title, simply because for every second of this film’s run time, the audience is allowed to feel only one thing … undiluted terror.