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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

10.17.2002

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flick pick | The Shining 1980
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stephen King (novel), Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, Danny Lloyd
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
horror
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something: scary
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5

Plot synopsis When writer Jack Torrance gets a job as the out-of-season winter caretaker for the Overlook, a grand resort hotel nestled deep in the Colorado mountains, he thinks itís going to be the perfect opportunity for him to get some good writing done. Far, far from the nearest town, and accessible only by a long curvy drive along a narrow mountain road thatís virtually inaccessible during the snowy months, the Overlook completely shuts down between October and May Ė the caretaker alone lives out there with his family to take care of the building and property. Peace and isolation sound like just what Jack needs, and besides, heís crazy about the hotel itself from the first moment he steps in for his interview: heís so comfortable in its long hallways and grand rooms that it already feels like home. Heís sure his wife Wendy and young son will enjoy the experience as well, and eagerly accepts the position Ė even after the hotel manager warns that all that solitude can be a dangerous thing for certain folks, like the caretaker decades earlier who went nuts from being cooped-up, and ended up hacking up his wife and kids before killing himself as well. As Jack and family settle into the Overlook, only Danny, who possesses a mysterious sixth sense (or "shine," as the hotelís similarly gifted chef describes it), is able to sense that the hotel holds something dark and terrible in store for them all.

Review The scariest movies for me are always the oneís where you donít actually see all that much blood and guts and gore: psychological terror, the anticipation of something terrible lurking around every corner, seems so much more real and frightening to me. Now, Iíd been putting off seeing Stanley Kubrickís horror classic for ages -- not because I was chicken, mind you, but because itís been my personal experience that Kubrick films have a tendency to bore the bejesus out of me. But in The Shining, the slow, drawn-out mind-game works beautifully: the fact that youíre constantly waiting for something to happen, and that most of the time nothing does, and that when it does you canít quite even figure out what it means, is exactly what keeps you on the edge of your seat. Sure, the few really graphically gory images we see in the film are very vivid and very creepy, but itís all that kind of quiet stuff in between that really gets you tense Ė the long meandering shots following Danny as he cruises the empty hallways on his Big Wheel, or Wendy and Danny walking hand-in-hand through the hedge maze, or that beautifully foreboding opening sequence with the helicopter view of the winding mountain road leading up to the hotel. (Granted, much of the atmosphere comes from the spooky score, which is perfectly manipulated to make your skin crawl even when youíre watching a seemingly mundane scene unfold on-screen.) Of course, Jack Nicholsonís Jack Torrance is a man so clearly on-the-verge of homicidal mania Ė itís a deliriously over-the-top, almost camp performance, and a lot of fun to watch Ė that itís never a question of what if, but only when and how. Itís the frequent almosts and that long, long wait to find out exactly whatís finally going to send Jack over the edge that makes The Shining so eerie and unnerving to watch.óreviewed by Y. Sun

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