By CLAIRE WINKLER
Last weekend, students at the University of Mary Washington had the chance to revisit “The Shining” at Cheap Seats.
Considered a classic of the horror genre, it features a tour-de-force performance from Jack Nicholson, beautiful cinematography and the sweeping vision of director Stanley Kubrick. In the Overlook Hotel, with its elevators full of blood and endless corridors, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
The story concerns married couple Jack and Wendy Torrence, played by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, and their young son, Danny, played by Danny Lloyd. Nicholson is a struggling writer who is in desperate need of employment. He is offered the position of winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, and he accepts.
Located on the top of a mountain, the hotel is completely isolated from the rest of the world. This becomes a problem when midway through the movie Nicholson loses what is left of his mind and spends the rest of the film stalking and attempting to kill his family.
In spite of these horrors, “The Shining” is still an absolutely beautiful movie. The scenery is breathtaking, and the hotel itself is so lovingly crafted that it seems to become an actual, sensual character.
Kubrick was a veteran by the time he filmed “The Shining,” and his direction is sure-footed.
An example of this is the now-iconic scene where Danny rides his Big Wheel tricycle down one of the hotel’s hallways. Kubrick lowers the camera to handlebar level and exaggerates the sound of the wheels rolling across evenly spaced rugs on a wooden floor. The image should be a simple one, but Kubrick somehow manages to make it creepy.
The performances deserve recognition as well. Nicholson is dependably excellent, lending an everyman quality to the film’s central madman.
Lloyd, the young actor who played Danny Torrence, deserves praise. Only six years old at the time of filming, he is bright, perceptive, and self-possessed—almost eerily so.
The title of the movie, in fact, comes from Danny. He has unspecified psychic abilities, called his “shine” by The Overlook’s cook, Dick Hallorann, played by Scatman Crothers. Hallorann possesses the “shine” as well.
Still, in spite of these successes and its status as a classic, “The Shining” does not succeed on every level. There are many, many loose ends that remain untied. A ghostly butler is originally named Charles Grady, but is somehow Delbert Grady by the time the movie draws to a close. Also, the caption on a photograph of Jack seen at the end of the movie makes no real sense.
Furthermore, the movie may have beauty, but it is lacking a soul. Kubrick spent so much time ensuring that he achieved his artistic vision—the bones of the story—that he neglected the story at the center—the meat. Stephen King, author of the source novel, hated the film upon its release.
Finally, the movie has not exactly aged well. Nicholson’s performance is powerful, but when held up next to more modern performances, it almost comes off as campy.
Duvall was one of the weakest links of the entire movie. Her Wendy is insipid and whiny. She spends most of the movie on the peripheral, taking in the horrors around her without doing much to prevent them.
Criticisms aside, “The Shining” is a classic nonetheless. This Halloween, if you missed your chance to watch it again at Cheap Seats, turn the lights off, huddle together with some friends and confront the ghosts that live in the Overlook—and maybe even a few that live inside of you.