Short Reviews: The Shining (1980)


The Shining is the type of film that a fourteen-year-old determined to establish an identity as a film buff might watch purely for the aim of seeing what’s regarded as a classic, rather than the experience of actually seeing the movie; and in being so determined to see the movie, he might be a little let down, because he was relying on his expectations more than gaining a new cinematic experience.

Revisiting the film on BluRay 9 years later, imagine his surprise to discover that, really, it is as good as its reputation always said!

9 years ago, he was left cold by how “slow” the movie was, not recognising the supremely masterful build-up of tension for what it is. He wanted to get to the recognisable scenes straight away, and didn’t realise that almost everything in the film is haunting, foreboding, ominous and unsettling.

Mistaking the true mark of a scary movie as how much it made you jump, he never recognised how unsettling the film is in all its elements. He couldn’t appreciate an effective score, nor disturbing and off-kilter imagery. He never took notice of the framing of the shots, or appreciated the sheer size of the Overlook Hotel as it’s represented in the film. He even wonders how much of the Overlook inspired David Lynch for Twin Peaks.

At the age of fourteen, ignoring all that’s listed above, the performances never stood out all that much. Jack Nicholson’s deranged descent into madness didn’t ring as brilliantly back then, because, at fourteen, he couldn’t separate the parodies from the original. But now, in hindsight, he can see it as all the more effective for only seeming a little more exaggerated than we already know Nicholson to be.

He’s still left a little underwhelmed by Shelly Duvall’s performance, and even at fourteen could see it slipped into hysterical-mode a little too early, but now he can understand that she’s still portraying the character convincingly, with a vulnerable fragility that’s hard to translate easily.

When he was 14, he knew that he should like Kubrick, because the film magazines he read told him that Kubrick was great. He wouldn’t have dared (at the time) to say he didn’t like Kubrick’s style because he found it strange. In hindsight, he was probably more off-put than he realised, and can now be utterly impressed by his vision and style.

9 years later, he’s impressed with The Shining and glad to have bought the BluRay. He knows that it might be a little pointless adding yet another review to something that’s already considered a classic. He also knows that it’s the kind of film that most people can recognise being referenced or parodied, but don’t necessarily know firsthand, and would definitely suggest that the quality of the BluRay makes it a highly-recommended way of seeing it for the first time.

It’s quiet, it’s calm, and it’s a masterful horror film. It’s a lot better than a pretentious fourteen-year-old might first consider it.

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