Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, & Scatman Crothers
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Running Time: 2hr 26min
Plot (Spoilers): Recovering alcoholic, and former school teacher, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), accepts a job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the isolated Colorado Rockies.
Closed during the winter season, Jack hopes the remote location will give him the peace and quiet he needs to work on a book. He’s told by the manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) of a tragedy that happened at the hotel years ago, where a former caretaker Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) murdered his family then himself, giving the hotel a bit of a reputation. Jack seems unaffected by the story and thinks the hotel will make for a good stay.
He takes along with him his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd), who possess psychic abilities that hotel cook Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) calls “the shining.” Hallorann also has these abilities, and he and Danny are able to communicate telepathically.
He asks Dick if bad things happened at the hotel, but he tells Danny that they’re merely memories left over that only someone with the shining can feel and not to worry; but he also warns him to stay away from Room 237.
As a month goes by and the snow sets in, Jack’s behavior starts get a bit erratic and Danny sees visions spirits in the hotel. Things take a turn when Danny gets hurt and Wendy thinks Jack caused the injury (having previously dislocated Danny’s shoulder while drunk).
Jack begins seeing spirits as well, including bartender Lloyd (Joe Turkel), who he gladly takes a drink from. Wendy tells Jack about seeing some woman in Room 237, and is responsible for strangling him. Jack and investigates and despite seeing the woman he denies this to Wendy.
Things only get worse as Jack also encounters the ghost of Grady, who encourages him to “correct” his family. Danny meanwhile sends a shining message to Halloran (who’s in Florida) who does his best to try and get to him.
Wendy is forced to fight off Jack and lock him in the food storage. But she discovers the two way radio and snowcat are disabled, leaving them trapped at the hotel.
Jack escapes with the help of Grady and attempts to kill Wendy and Danny. Danny gets out through a window and Wendy manages to evade an attack from Jack. Hallorann arrives at the hotel but gets killed almost immediately, causing Danny to scream in terror and be chased by Jack through the hedge maze. Danny escapes the, reunites with Wendy, and jack ends up trapped in the maze and freezes to death.
Personal history/how I came to see this film: My first recollection of seeing this movie was around age 9 or 10, mostly clips from the end of the movie. Like pretty much every Kubrick film, there have been countless spoofs, many of which I grew up with (the most notable one being the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror V in the first segment, The Shinning).
Eventually I’d see the whole movie on one of the premium cable networks (HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc). This was the fourth Kubrick film I saw in theaters, getting to see it around the Halloween season of 2016.
Reception: The movie was a modest hit at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, but in later years has been highly regarded as a horror classic. Author Stephen King was not too happy with how the adaptation turned out (even scripting a 1997 TV adaptation), but over the years he’s softened on his opinions.
In 2001, the film was ranked 29th on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list and Jack Torrance was named the 25th greatest villain on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains list in 2003.
In 2005, the quote “Here’s Johnny!” was ranked 68 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list.
In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Personal Opinion: I love this movie! I’ve never read the book, and while I know there are major differences I doubt reading the book would detract from my enjoyment of the film.
I personally disagree with Stephen King that this version of Jack Torrence isn’t sympathetic. Sure, we know he’s gonna lose it (it is Jack Nicholson after all), but it’s also a horror film so that’s basically a given. It’s just that with Nicholson in the role it’s even more obvious. Still, I do think the character starting out has good intentions, but gives into the madness (and perhaps way easier than in the book based on what I’ve been told).
Shelley Duvall is amazing too. Maybe her character is at times too weak willed and sone might find her performance over the top at times, but Duvall definitely puts everything into her performance and you totally buy her fright (which I think justifies the over to top moments). Based on the scenes stories and footage, Kubrick really put her through a lot with crazy amounts of takes (something he was well known for) and acting coldly towards her (as a way to motivate her performance), but she has stated she wouldn’t trade the experience (but wouldn’t wanna go through it again, understandable).
Kid actors can be problematic (as in not very good), but Danny Lloyd did a good job. It’s even more impressive when you consider he didn’t know he was making a horror film (he wouldn’t see an uncut version of the film till 11 years after he made it). The rest of the cast does a good job too with their brief scenes.
It’s no surprise that the film is well made, would you expect anything else from Kubrick? I especially enjoy the opening areal shots along with the eerie score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind that sets the uneasy mood throughout the film.
I also love the Steadicam work by Garret Brown (inventor of the device) and how it follows Danny on his big wheel around the halls of the hotel. It allows for some other wonderfully immersive shots.
This was another film shot by cinematographer John Alcott (who also shot Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon), and as usual the lighting and use of shadows is amazing.
Then there’s of course the production design by Roy Walker (who would also work on Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut). The hotel is very much its own character in this movie, with seemingly never ending hallways, the large open lounge area, and the tight hedge maze.
Should you see it? If you’re a fan of horror then absolutely! If you’re a fan of film in general (like me) then I’d say also give it a watch.