All Work and No Play Would Make For a Boring Review

Shining a spotlight onto one of the greatest horror movies of all time


One of many posters for The Shining, depicting Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) at the height of his insanity.

With each swing of his ax, the ghosts of the hotel overtake what was left of Jack Torrance’s sanity. As he walks over to the shattered door, the dread is thick enough to cut with a knife as he shouts, “Honey, I’m home!”, met by the screams of his wife Wendy, leaving viewers petrified as to what he’ll do next.  In an act of spontaneous genius, actor Jack Nicholson decides to lean his head into the hole he has created, a look of insanity spread out across his face, and shouts, “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” cementing himself into pop culture for eternity and sending chills down the spine of movie-watchers for decades to come.

The Shining is a movie that only gets better with age. When it was released by the visionary filmmaker behind 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s infamous novel received considerably less praise than would be anticipated for what is now held to be a staple of cinema, even failing to receive a single Oscar nomination. But in the years following the release, it has grown into not only one of the most influential horror movies of all time, but also one of the most influential movies of all time, finding its place pretty high up on many (including my) all time best list. It has also become a movie with a massive cult following, inspiring the critically acclaimed Room 237, a documentary analyzing the massive public reaction and cultural importance the film has amassed since its release in 1980.

“Heeeeeere’s Johnny!””

— Jack Torrance

The film centers around the tribulations of the Torrance family in their attempt to maintain a secluded Colorado hotel, The Overlook. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a failed writer, takes a job as the caretaker of the hotel for the winter in the hopes that it will give him the peace and quiet he needs to finally complete his novel. The hotel owner tells him that though it would be a lovely skiing resort it would just be too expensive to keep the long road through the mountains open underneath the snow swells. What follows is a masterclass in suspense and storytelling, as Torrance slowly loses his mind, and the hotels dark secrets begin to reveal themselves. Stay away from room 237.

When reviewing The Shining, it is hard to pin down exactly what makes the film great. For starters the scenery and corresponding atmosphere is astounding. The design of the Overlook is iconic, from the maze-like design of the carpet to the looming windows of Jack’s study. It definitely added to the eerie feeling of claustrophobia that builds throughout the movie. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind turn in a criminally underrated score, sticking in your head long after the movie has ended. The directing is also amazing, with Kubrick turning in a career performance, a remarkable achievement  when you consider his lofty career. But above all, I think what makes this movie special is it’s cast. Shelley Duvall is haunting as Wendy Torrance and the same can be said about Danny Lloyd but the real standout of the cast is Jack Nicholson. Nicholson delivers one of the best performances of all time, taking what could and probably should have been a laughably over-the-top Jack Torrance and turning him into one of the scariest figures in the history of cinema.

This is a movie that not enough young people are being turned on to. It is a movie that many young kids nowadays just hear their parents talk about and then choose not to give the time of day. I know that this is a common theme as of late, for kids to ignore old movies in favor of new ones, but I feel that this is a particularly unfortunate example of that. I hope that kids reading this review will chose to get past their biases against films released before 2000 and go rent The Shining, for I feel it is a choice they absolutely will not regret.