The Shining (1980) movie poster

(1980) dir. Stanley Kubrick
viewed: 07/14/03 at Castro Theater, SF, CA

Seeing The Shining on the big screen was quite a treat, as I had only once before seen it, on a tiny little television in the UK probably about 10 years ago. The film is moody and extremely visual, building tension with its slow pace and dissonant music, the film builds and punctuates with powerful and striking images that have almost all gone on to having an iconic impact. In fact, seeing a film like this in an environment like The Castro Theater, with what was probably a crowd comprised largely of film enthusiasts, knowing what to expect at each turn, when the film builds to its infamous “Here’s Johnny!” line, there is almost a sublime sensation of familiarity that permeates any sense of tension that the film could concoct.

The steadicam work is still stunning. The interiors of the hotel are utterly mesmerizing. There is something hypnotic about the cinematography all the way around. The amazing shot of Jack Nicholson as he is swinging the axe, chopping at the door, really jars the viewer. The camera mimics his movement, swinging back and forth with him, and coming to rythmic, abrupt stops as it strikes the door.

The film’s images stay with you long after the film is over. I always remembered the flying camera shot over the car as it twisted up the heavily forrested road to the hotel. The funny thing is that I had forgotten some of the early part of the film, the little boy, Danny Lloyd, his little talking finger and the visit from the social worker. Actually, the little talking finger thing really edges on hilarity, perhaps one of the film’s weaker elements. There are a couple other weird little things that seemed pretty crappy, too. When Jack goes up to the evil room and starts to make out with the naked woman from the tub, the mood is very creepy. But when it turns out that she is a rotting corpse, it seems really silly and she make-up looks poor and dated. Also, that weird throw-away image of the people in animal costume having some sort of sexual situation reminded me poorly of later less successful weirdness as comprised much of Kubrick’s uneven final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999), attempting to be shocking and arresting, but merely feeling stagey and odd.

After having watched the visceral and hyperkinetic 28 Days Later… (2002), it was interesting to see another horror film that approached its material from such a different angle, building slowly to powerful images, rather than creating ALL of its tension from mood.