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The Shining

Movie Information

In Brief: Here is a rare opportunity to see Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of horror on the big screen — and in a brand new digital cinema print, meaning it probably looks better than it did in 1980 when it was first released. Kubrick is one of those filmmakers whose work truly cries out for big screen presentation, and The Shining is no exception. Whether seeing it properly for the first time in more than 30 years will help you unravel whether it's a plain horror movie, a psychological horror movie or a black comedy of a horror movie (or maybe all three and maybe more) is another matter, but if you love cinema, you owe it to yourself to see it as it was meant to be seen.
Score:

Genre: Horror
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone
Rated: R

The Asheville Film Society booked Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in part to tie in with the opening of the documentary Room 237 (opening locally on May 3) — a film that looks at different readings of The Shining that make some…interesting conclusions. (Room 237 is an eye-opener in terms of overanalyzing that makes critics look like amateurs.) But mostly AFS booked The Shining because it was available in a new digital print. That means it’s going to look as good as or better than it did on its first release in 1980. (Now, 35mm purists will tell you that the digital print is still not as good, but that’s working from a basic fallacy that supposes a perfect and brand new 35mm print will be projected and framed perfectly. The probability of any of that — let alone all of that — falling into place is realistically nil.) Not having seen the film on the big screen for 33 years, I’m personally excited by this prospect.

I clearly remember seeing The Shining on its first release. It was in an Orlando multiplex and my wife and I were seated just behind a couple (in full uniform) from the Naval Training Center. The girl spent a significant amount of the movie covering her eyes — less from anything on the screen and more from the anticipation of what might be on the screen. That’s the kind of feeling the film has. While Kubrick was by no means reticent to deliver more overt horror moments, the film is mostly driven by the fear of what will happen next — what’s around the next corner of the hotel, what’s behind that door to Room 237, what we’ll see at the next cut. And Kubrick put the film together in a manner that plays the audience like a violin. This, after all, is a long movie — at 146 minutes it’s probably the longest horror movie ever made — and that makes it be more about building a mood than presenting cheap scares.

Not everyone appreciated that in 1980. Critic David Denby called it “the world’s first pompous horror movie,” and I’d be lying if I said I immediately recognized The Shining as a masterpiece. In fact, I was originally disappointed by the film. Warner Bros. wasn’t all that happy either. At one point, they edited it down and tried it as a double bill with Ken Russell’s Altered States — another 1980 release that did well on the coasts and withered fast in middle America. But there was something about the film that had hooked into the moviegoing public’s subconscious — certainly into mine. I couldn’t put my finger on it — and maybe I still haven’t — but it kept drawing me back to watch it again and again. It was like the film contained some secret that you needed to dig for.

Some things became clear pretty early on. The key one was that the film really had little to do with Stephen King’s haunted hotel novel— apart from the basic story and characters. In Kubrick’s hands, a simple, but admittedly effective ghost story had become something else. In fact, it’s at least almost possible to read the film in a way that the hotel isn’t haunted at all. If you look at the film as Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) descent into madness, you can make a case that Wendy (Shelley Duvall), who only begins to see anything horrific at the very end, is simply a victim of Jack’s own communicated insanity. There’s only one catch to that: Who lets Jack out of the pantry near the end of the film? (Both Kubrick and his co-writer Diane Johnson said it was the ghost that the film depicts.) I suspect that catch is a deliberate one by Kubrick. I think he wanted a film with a mystery that could never be quite satisfactorily solved — something that you could never quite get away from. The deeper you go into the film, the less it adds up. Even aspects of the very layout of the Overlook Hotel don’t make sense. Things simply can’t be where they are (like the windows in the manager’s (Barry Nelson) office), but that’s where we see them.

Myself, I think the film is supernatural in content. I think the film works on the basis that the demonic force in the film is a character — and the character is the camera itself. Think of the film’s opening with the camera — or the demon, if you will — gliding over the lake. It then comes up as if it senses something about to happen—that something being the approach of a car. The camera the follows the car and then moves in to get a better look at the occupant of it and then flies off — with a sound on the soundtrack that might well be a triumphant cry over having found a suitable vessel heading to the hotel. To me, this is the only way the opening makes sense — unless we reduce it to a mere stylistic flourish, which I’m not ready to do. Then the camera/demon follows the characters around — possibly even directs them — throughout the film. It may not all fit, but as I said, I don’t think any single reading quite fits all the film. I think that’s the point — that Kubrick wanted a film that was like the Overlook Hotel itself — a movie that would hold onto a lingering trace of something evil that happened, but that that trace would always be in the viewer’s mind.

The Asheville Film Society’s Big Screen Budget Series will show The Shining Wednesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. in one of the downstairs theaters at The Carolina Asheville. Admission is $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

54 thoughts on “The Shining

  1. Me

    Someone needs to set up a double bill Room 237 and The Shining spectacular.

  2. Julie m

    I think the date is wrong? Is it showing April 24? It says March 24 in the description.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I think the date is wrong? Is it showing April 24? It says March 24 in the description.

    Thank you. It’s fixed now.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I could see you doing a karate chop after saying “This is”.

    My issue is pretty much this — why not say, “Oh, The Shining on the big screen, that’s cool,” rather than express a desire for something that isn’t happening and can’t happen at this point?

  5. Me

    It just would have been cool to have planned ahead and made a double screening, thats all. No reason to get bent out of shape about it.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Well, when you’re ponying up the money for the film rentals, you can do that.

  7. Xanadon't

    As of yesterday, movietickets.com wasn’t working when I tried to buy tickets. The time/place info is all correct, but when I clicked to confirm purchase I got a fail message telling me that that tickets could “not be purchased for this theater at this time”, or something to that effect.

  8. Xanadon't

    I’ve never used the site, so I don’t know if this is normal for Carolina Cinemas or not.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I have no clue. I know they can be purchased at the theater. I saw someone do it on Thursday night. I’ll ask Mr. Souther to check into this mystery.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I dont know how it works

    Which doesn’t stop you from commenting.

    i dont run a movie theater

    Neither do I.

  11. Xanadon't

    I’m not sweating it. All the more reason to get down there and see Trance tonight.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Excellent point, but I’d still like to know why the online purchasing isn’t working.

  13. brebro

    I love this movie, but I feel like if I bought another ticket to it (after the one I bought in 1980, when I saw it at The Carolina I and II on Hendo’s Main St.) and the DVD, and the HD-DVD, and the BLU-Ray DVD and the unauthorized Jack Torrance action figure, that I would start to just become kind of obsessive about it.

  14. Xanadon't

    On the other hand, this might be a great way to keep your obsession at bay until you’re ready to splurge on that original one-sheet you’ve been eyin’.

  15. Ken Hanke

    you’re ready to splurge on that original one-sheet you’ve been eyin’.

    Wait…are those valuable now? Collectibly speaking they were going for ten bucks in 1980.

  16. Dionysis

    I truly wish I could like this movie, as it seems the majority of film goers do. I saw it upon its initial release and was not even mildly scared, but rather mostly bored.

    I tried again with an open mind many years later, and liked it even less than the first time.

    I have heard what fans say, I read what you and other critics have written, but for me, I’d sooner catch the Thursday night cheese fest.

    Drat!

  17. Ken Hanke

    I’m not saying you should try it again, but I will note that it took me 42 years to like 2001.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Maybe you should try the Simpsons version

    That sounds unfortunate.

  19. Xanadon't

    but I will note that it took me 42 years to like 2001.

    Oh good. I’m two attempts in 8 years and still don’t like it. And three or four shots at A Clockwork Orange over the last dozen years and like that one less.

  20. Ken Hanke

    It took me much less time to like A Clockwork Orange (I actually think it’s Kubrick’s best film) — once I saw it in a rep theater (if you’re old enough to remember those) with the volume cranked up. Made all the difference.

  21. Edwin Arnaudin

    I took to A Clockwork Orange from the opening shot and, as the film progressed, was pretty amazed with how much I liked it. I second that it’s Kubrick’s best.

    Dr. Strangelove took me a few tries to fully appreciate, though I think my Dad first played it for me when I was 12. I’d seen all the Pink Panther films by that point, but DS and Being There were two very different Peter Sellers from what I was used to.

  22. Xanadon't

    My first exposure to A Clockwork Orange was actually at a midnight showing in a 900 capacity theater. I liked it okay but something about it has soured with me since. But it’s been seven years so perhaps my taste buds have changed. Been meaning to finally watch Barry Lyndon so maybe I’ll make it a double feature.

    Don’t need convincing on Dr. Stangelove though.

  23. Ken Hanke

    My feelings on Strangelove are very mixed. Parts of it I find extremely strained, parts of it I find brilliant, and all of it I find more disturbing than funny. I think when you spent part of your early childhood having it beaten into your head that nuclear war is an ever-present danger (there’s just nothing like being seven and taken on a tour of a fallout shelter) it colors your views. Speaking of which, are you taking Clockwork Orange as a bleakly cynical black comedy?

    My relationship with Clockwork is complex. I was too young to see it on its original release (yes, there was such a time) and didn’t catch it till a 1975 re-issue. I wasn’t immediately taken with it, though I liked the way it was made. Then I lived with a guy who though it was the end-all be-all movie, so every time it cropped up at a rep house or a university, guess who got dragged to it? So if nothing else I got used to it, but it was really that extremely loud screening somewhat later that turned the trick. That was when it struck me that things I hadn’t liked were…well, supposed to be funny. Not comfortable, mind you, but bitterly funny — in part as a satire on the notion that art is supposed to automatically an elevating experience.

    Oddly, I have an unopened blu-ray of Barry Lyndon on my desk (I actually know where this is). I have never liked this film — I think it’s boring — but I’m going to give it another shot. I admit this is partly out of a desire to check T’other Ken’s story that Kubrick called him up and asked him where he got all those wonderful locations. I don’t doubt that part of the story, but I do want to see if those locations ended up in the film. When I last saw the film, I didn’t know the locations well enough to necessarily spot them. Now I do. All it’ll take is watching 194 minutes of slow movie…

  24. Steven

    [i]Eyes Wide Shut[/i] is the only Kubrick film that I was mixed on initially and have yet to revisit it. I plan on doing that soon – preferably late at night, as I feel that mood would benefit the film.

    Come to think of it, aside from [i]A Clockwork Orange[/i], [i]Paths of Glory[/i] is probably the only Kubrick that I loved initially.

  25. Edwin Arnaudin

    Come to think of it, aside from A Clockwork Orange, Paths of Glory is probably the only Kubrick that I loved initially.

    Lots to like there. I also liked Eyes Wide Shut a lot more than I thought I would and will add the first section of Full Metal Jacket to the First Timers club. I’ve yet to revisit the second part.

  26. Xanadon't

    That was when it struck me that things I hadn’t liked were…well, supposed to be funny. Not comfortable, mind you, but bitterly funny — in part as a satire on the notion that art is supposed to automatically an elevating experience.

    I’ll bring these ideas to my next viewing, whenever that may be.

    I think some of my problem lies in the fact that I wasn’t able to reconcile the things you’re saying with the troubling and overwhelming nihilistic energy going on– regardless of what Kubrick means to say about it.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Well, that was the best turnout ever. Good thing we ended up being moved to the biggest theater.

  28. Me

    So it sounds like it works like Blockbuster do you have to rewind it?

  29. Orbit DVD

    My wife and son just watched it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, so I skipped the screening. I’m really happy about the turnout… hopefully there will be more screenings like this in the future!

  30. Ken Hanke

    Too bad you didn’t come. I had one elderly gent come up to me afterwards saying, “I’ve been watching this for years on tape and then DVD, but I feel like I just saw it for the first time. I’ve been missing so much detail.”

    Probably won’t have quite the same appeal to you, but we’ve booked Moulin Rouge! — the Luhrmann one — on DCP for May 8, which of course is two days before Gatsby opens.

    Nothing definite, but the audience responded most enthusiastically to the idea of seeing 2001 on down the road.

  31. Steven

    [b]Nothing definite, but the audience responded most enthusiastically to the idea of seeing 2001 on down the road.
    [/b]

    Yes, please. I was surprised at the turnout. It seemed like it was nearly sold out. I have a feeling there would be a similar turnout for [i]A Clockwork Orange[/i].. eh hem..

  32. Ken Hanke

    Eventually, but having tantalized them with the prospect of 2001, I suspect it will happen first.

  33. Orbit DVD

    I might take you up on the MOULIN ROUGE screening. I’ve never seen it.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Well, if you’re ready to take the plunge, there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen. I was doing frame grabs from it today and was reminded how much of the film is lost on a small screen.

  35. Me

    In predicting 237 will be one if those rare films Ken and I can both agree is pretty great. It made me realize The Shining was more than just one big chase scene.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Well, I’ve seen it, but I’m not reviewing it. I liked it, but I never thought The Shining was one big chase scene. I also think that a lot of those readings are beyond far-fetched, but that’s what makes them entertaining.

  37. Xanadon't

    I also think that a lot of those readings are beyond far-fetched

    But… yeah, but.. but the moon is anywhere from 222,000 to 253,000 miles away from Earth. So that includes 237,000. And 237 is a factor of 237,000. Roooom 237. Are you gonna try’n tell me that’s a coincidence?!

  38. Ken Hanke

    I’d be willing to be a case of no. 10 cans of Calumet Baking Powder that it could be.

  39. Ken Hanke

    This also extends to Dick Halloran, wanting a bit more from that character.

    Now here you touch on the one thing I have a certain amount of problem with in the changes made to the book, because the way Kubrick uses him at the very end, his only real function becomes “the guy who drives the snowcat to the hotel,” reducing him to a kind of “Negro-ex-machina” cliche — and this is after the film has built him up for more. I will say he gets a nifty death scene.

    The question remains…how long will it be till we see you again?

  40. Tonberry

    Good question. My wife and I were talking about horror movies that scared us the most about a month and some ago. This is her number one. She didn’t even want to talk about it all that much when I got back from the screening. So I guess a romantic evening with chocolates, foot rubs, and “The Shining,” is out of the question.

    It’ll have to be on a rare evening when I have the house all to myself so I can crank up the volume. Then after, I’ll be thoroughly unsettled and spooked when trying to go to sleep.

  41. Tonberry

    Whoops. Foul dyslexia.

    Thinking of travelling back to those parts at least for The Ladykillers. A Coens picture I have not seen. And we are celebrating four years now?

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