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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hollywood Rewind | The Shining: A dazzling Jack Nicholson

The Shining is a unique movie to come out of its genre, given the year it was released in. Its 'fear factor' lies in its intangibility.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Updated: September 27, 2020 3:21:37 pm
hollywood rewindThe Jack Nicholson-starrer released in 1980. (Photo: Warner Bros)

Twins, Redrum, The Overlook Hotel — if you are familiar with these words then you must already have guessed what this article is going to be about. Yes, I am revisiting the Stanley Kubrick directorial The Shining (1980). I had watched the film almost a decade ago, and I remember being greatly impressed by the feature. However, when I revisited the film, I realised that I put all my misplaced admiration for Kubrick onto The Shining, therefore making it a bigger spectacle in my head than it actually is. At least this is what I believe now. But this is not to say that the Jack Nicholson-starrer was not ahead of its time.

Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Shining is a horror-thriller in which Nicholson gives a truly hair-raising performance. In fact, he is one of the best things about the movie. But first, to the plot — Nicholson plays the writer Jack Torrence, who takes up the job of a hotel caretaker for a winter. He moves to the Colorado Rockies with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). The hotel gets snowed in, and the sense of isolation increases as the three only have each other for company. The hotel is also haunted by past spirits and horrific events which begin to take a hold of Jack. The rest of the story focuses on Jack’s unravelling and other supernatural occurrences that happen in the Overlook hotel during their stay.

The Shining is mostly a psychological horror. There are no jump scares, it can be called gory for its time, but there is not tons of bloodshed if you discount the copious amounts of blood we see spill out of the elevators from time to time. Jack is a disturbed character who has hallucinations; he continually interacts with himself in a rather disturbing manner. An alcoholic, Jack is shown as an irritable man who is not very fond of his wife or his son. He starts seeing ghosts and attending parties invaded by spirits. He sees people he should not see, and suffice it to say that he loses himself until he becomes murderous. Jack Nicholson does a beautiful job of a man who is no longer in control of his senses. The actor’s portrayal is darkly comic, deeply unsettling and always spell-binding. From the way he speaks in soft, ominous whispers to his body language, and that deranged smile — Nicholson is a treat to watch.

The other thing which is striking about the film is its cinematography. John Alcott does a fantastic job of capturing not only the scenic beauty of snow-capped mountains and winding empty roads, but he also brings to life the sense of dread which envelops The Overlook Hotel. The blood-spilling elevators, the mysterious twins, the loneliness of the hotel — you cannot help but lap up everything in small, long draughts of breath. In that sense, The Shining is a unique movie to come out of its genre, given the year it was released in. Its ‘fear factor’ is its intangibility. The background music by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind helps too. Danny Lloyd as the little Danny with ‘shining’ abilities is terrific. But what holds the film back is its pace, and its pretensions of being vaguer and grander than it is. The movie takes time to build, but the pay off is not that smooth.

Hollywood Rewind: Clueless | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off | Blue Velvet | Taxi Driver | The Lord of the Rings I | Zero Dark Thirty | The Godfather | Say Anything | Warm Bodies | Bright Star | Malcolm X | Stardust | Red Eye | Notting Hill | FargoThe Virgin Suicides | The Breakfast Club | Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | TangledMeet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles

The Shining is currently streaming on Netflix.

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