Returning to cinemas 22 years after its initial release, The Shining remains one of the most important and groundbreaking films in the horror canon.
Stanley Kubrick’s grandiose masterpiece sparkles with blood-curdling wildness and fun genre iconography as the Torrance family take over a colossal hotel when it closes for the winter, only for Jack Nicholson’s alcoholic dad to experience a prolonged descent into madness.
Nicholson turns his roguish charm into something dangerous and deranged, delivering one of the greatest performances of the 20th century in the process.
Shelley Duvall is equally as brilliant, transforming her stock ‘wife in peril’ character into a barrel of abject disbelief and anguish. Then there’s young Danny Lloyd, in his sole feature film, delivering a performance of unusual subtlety.
But it’s Kubrick who is the real star here; lengthy tracking shots and provocative imagery create an immediate sense of isolation and despair. This is visceral psychological horror at its finest, personified by the infamous slow-motion explosion of blood flooding the hotel lobby.
The camera remains mostly detached and static, ghoulish flashes of the grotesque are all the more powerful because they’re staring you right in the face, instead of being presented through flashy video game edits like so much modern horror.
Everything is designed to rattle and screw around with the audience, from the multi-coloured patterns of the 1970s carpenting to the seemingly never ending garden maze, photographed from high above and resembling a kind of freaky circuit board.
The Shining itself neatly parallels that maze. You may journey inside with a feeling of intense excitement, but you’re soon consumed by a sense of panic as you lose your way. As you hit a wall of absolute terror, you realise there’s no escape.