The Kubrick Project: Part Five
…and finally, we come to Stanley Kubrick’s undisputed masterpiece.
The Shining (1980)
Based (loosely I might add) on the Stephen King novel, this superbly crafted horror movie has Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence, wannabe caretaker of the Overlook Hotel who gets the rather un-enviable task of house sitting the mammoth mountain-set hotel for the winter, with just his dutiful wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) for company. Now this simple set up soon takes a turn for the menacing when we discover that young Danny has a psychic ability, and see’s ghosts of over long-dead hotel guests that haunt the hotel following a murder that happened many years previous under very similar circumstances.
In the hands of an auteur like Kubrick though, this very basic set up is just an excuse for this uber-talented director to let rip with some of the finest camera work and cinematography of his career, and with the one location to bleed for all its worth, Kubrick works wonders, helped endlessly by a heavy-weight performance by Nicholson, who’s gradual descent into madness then finally uncontrollable rage, is totally convincing and turns what could have already been an eye-catching, effective ghost-story into something truly special. A generous nod must also go to Shelley Duvall & Danny Lloyd who add so much power to the scenes they are in, and Duvall especially should be celebrated as one of the forgotten scream-queens of the genre. As a child actor too, Danny Lloyd is very impressive, eerie and heart-breakingly believable throughout, almost stealing the film from his adult co-stars at times.
You may also be pleased to hear (unless your a die hard gore hound) that this is one of those fright-flicks that doesn’t have to rely on big-budget make-up effects to jolt your spine, as its the atmosphere, the direction, the music and especially the performances that set this in a class of its own. Probably the finest horror movie ever made.
The DVD housed in the newly released Stanley Kubrick box set (which is also available separately) is a 2 disk special edition with a beautifully crisp picture presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic wide screen. The sound has been re-mastered in 5.1 Dolby Digital and is very effective, especially during the chaotic orchestral moments when the horror is cranked to the max. Extras-wise this film is given the treatment it deserves, with 1 feature-length documentary by Vivian Kubrick showing the master at work and some brilliant on-set footage, and we also get 3 further featurettes that pick this film apart until only the carcass is left for us to chew on. Add to this a very informative commentary for the movie itself by steady-cam inventor Garrett Brown as well as Historian John Baxter, and this makes for a stellar package.
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