Tuesday, February 19, 2013

THE SHINING (1980) movie review

Shining, The
d. Kubrick, Stanley (UK/USA)

Carving out a niche of its own in the vaunted annals of haunted house cinema, Stanley Kubrick’s stunner is far from a slavishly faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller, which dismayed the author and baffled critics upon its initial release.

Many complained that Jack Nicholson’s recovering alcoholic character, given the winter caretaking duties of the majestic Overlook Hotel, was crazy from the get-go and that Kubrick and co-screenwriter Diane Johnson’s take was confusing and inaccessible.

However, time has been kind and many horror fans have come to appreciate these qualities as assets rather than faults. More than anything, it’s a gorgeously shot and well acted cinematic tour-de-force, with the many unexplained elements only serving to deepen the suspense and mystery.

Kubrick, aided brilliantly by cinematographer John Alcott and production designer Roy Walker, glides his constantly roving Steadicam effortlessly throughout the intricate, grandiose Overlook sets. The hypnotic score, composed by Rachel Elkind and Wendy Carlos (along with a mashup of classical pieces) is unique in that the aural jump scares rarely coincide with the visual action – the bursts often occur in the middle of extended tracking shots, bumping up the unsettling atmosphere tenfold.

True, Nicholson may indeed be deranged from the outset, but his skill as an actor allows him to soar where lesser craftsmen would have bumped against a premature emotional ceiling. Jack just keeps going and going, up to and beyond his infamous aping of Ed McMahon’s Tonight Show intro, “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”

As his troubled wife, Shelley Duvall is the ideal foil for Nicholson, with an unsung performance that is equally captivating – watch her face as she discovers Jack’s manuscript and try to argue to the contrary. Rarely has the essence of sheer, uncomprehending terror been captured so completely.

Clocking in at over 140 minutes, this is no breezy frightfest, but rather a prolonged, dizzying descent into madness, one brilliantly captured on celluloid and filled with instantly iconic moments.

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