For most people, the ten scariest words in the world are probably “I’m definitely pregnant and it’s either yours or your dad’s”. But somehow, Stanley Kubrick manages to turn ten innocuous words into one of the most chilling moments in film: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
Yet it turns out Jack’s far from dull. An aspiring writer, Jack (Nicholson) takes a job looking after a deserted hotel during the winter season. Bringing his wife and child, Danny, along for the ride, they’re all set for a period of relaxation, until the sinister presence in the hotel threatens the isolated family. They say everyone’s got a book in them. It just turns out that for Jack, he’s got the spirit of the previous, murderous caretaker in there too.
After seeing Jack Nicholson grin his way through a varied acting career, I’m never sure whether to applaud or retch at the idea of him becoming America’s answer to Peter Stringfellow. In fact, one of the most disturbing scenes in the film is when Jack starts kissing a hot naked girl, only for her to rapidly age horrifically and the whole thing turn into a necro-fest of heavy petting and withered corpse flesh. Ironically, it must be how many of his girlfriends feel today.
Now considered a classic, The Shining also spawned two of the scariest children in film. So if you find you start having nightmares about the butchered Grady twins, it might help to imagine them in real life as they are now – a notable Microbiologist and English Literature graduate. Knowing that sort of takes the edge off for me.
Whilst there are flashing shots of the murdered twins, much of the fear actually comes from ‘seeing the unseen’ on the faces of the cast. Allegedly, Stanley Kubrick deprived Shelley Duvall of sleep to bring an element of genuine unease and fear to her performance. For the rest of the cast, he simply showed a picture of waxen-faced Duvall without her make up on. Pure horror.Only one scene lets the chill factor down – a sinister moment where the young Danny is seemingly possessed into croaking the word ‘murder’ backwards over and over. Only, since the 70s, there’s also been a famous racehorse called Red Rum, breaking the spell somewhat. I can’t watch it without imagining Mr Ed just off camera boasting to the make-up girl about how well he’s hung.
Despite sounding like an 80s AIDS awareness campaign, “Here’s Johnny!” has now become an oft-quoted line of this must-see film. More psychological than gory, for many, The Shining is the perfect horror. Want to see its unnerving trailer?
Want to see a funnier romcom version?