Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King. If there was ever a movie to give me nightmares, it would be this one, though it’s never happened.
I love every chance I get to revisit this film, and seeing it on the list of 101 Horror Movies just gave me my most recent excuse to watch it again.
For those folks who love their gore and their jump scares, you’re going to be disappointed. This is the very definition of a slow burn movie, slowly building in terms of terror and fear, crawling under your skin, getting inside you, and shaking you to your core.
The film, the book, the director, the author, the hotel (both of them) and the star are all legends.
The film is set in the secluded Overlook Hotel, which is actually located in Oregon, but the inspiration came from the King family’s stay in the infamous Stanley Hotel in Colorado.
And after all these years, it’s creep factor remains, and Jack Nicholson is brilliant!
Kubrick gives us slow, steady, controlled shots through the entire film, giving an objective feel to all that we’re seeing, but it’s nowhere near enough to allow you to distance yourself from the subject matter, because you see it all. You know before the Torrances arrive that there is something wrong, Little Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) has a mysterious invisible friend named Tony who lives in his mouth that tells Danny he doesn’t want to go to the hotel.
Wendy (Shelley Duvall) is a bothersome, cowed character that can’t seem to stand up for herself, and defends her husband, who, admittedly, is a bit of a dick, or maybe that is just the hotel working on him.
Things spiral out of control, slowly but undeniably, when the snow settles, and leaves the family, who are serving as the hotel’s caretakers, all alone, for five months.
For all that time, Wendy is the only one who doesn’t seem to have a paranormal experience (until the climax of the film). Both Danny and Jack have terrifying experiences in room 237 (changed to that from the room King stayed in, 217). Danny sees visions of the murdered Grady twins asking him to play with them (for ever and ever and ever), as well as torrents of blood spilling out of the elevators.
I love the tracking shots as the camera follows Danny around the floors of the hotel, the bump, thrum, bump, thrum as he rolls over hardwood floors and carpets and leaving the audience to worry about what we’re going to see when he goes around the next corner… because we know, sooner or later, something will happen…
Jack is slowly driven insane by his own experience with a hag-like being in Room 237 as well as his interaction with the non-existent hotel staff, who tell him that he’s always been here.
I love the use of Scatman Crothers as Dick Halloran, flying up from Florida to race back to the hotel, in an effort to save the Torrances from their fate – you see, he and Danny share a psychic connection, a shining, something that the hotel shares as well. The film constantly cuts back to him, showing him traveling, almost there, almost there, and on his arrival, well… There’s Jack.
Admittedly the film differs from the original novel, but what works in print and the imagination, doesn’t always work on-screen, so what we’re left with is a superior ghost story and a study in madness.
The terrifying notion of Jack hunting his son through the frozen hedge maze and that little kicker at the end of the film with the photograph… chills.
One of my favorite reveals, and though it has been parodied countless times since then – it still works, is when Wendy goes through all the pages Jack, as struggling writer, and sees what he has written.
After The Exorcist, this is my favorite horror film, and if you’re not one of those viewers who needs gore and jump scares but prefers something that builds and gets under your skin, then I can’t recommend this film enough.
What do you think of it?