Stanley Kubrick / USA / 1980 / 144 min
In the three decades since Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was released, the film has fought poor critical reception, lacklustre box office figures, and some (initial) disappointed cinema-goers to become one of horror’s most important works. This year, 32 years after its release, and thirteen years after the death of its director, the US cut of the film has been released for the first time in the UK, which also contains 24 minutes of extra footage than the European version.
Adapted from Stephen King’s classic horror novel of the same name, The Shining follows writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) as he begins his job as the winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his psychic son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). But the icy, malevolent forces inside the hotel and writer’s block soon send Jack into madness.
Released in 1980 to a somewhat subdued response, Kubrick’s film adaptation of King’s renowned tale of repression, madness, claustrophobia and evil spirits has become a cult favourite in the decades following its original release. While Kubrick’s film notoriously made a number of artistic changes to King’s story and characters, what it lacks in King’s original content, it makes up for with Kubrick’s eye for detail and power to unnerve. This US cut of the film, which runs at 144 minutes, is often credited as the director’s cut, although Kubrick apparently preferred the shorter 113 minute edition. However, this version contains a number of extra scenes which help to create a much clearer idea of the passing of time than the European version, which is also due to the use of title cards.
Supported by masterful performances by Nicholson and Lloyd, while Duvall’s slightly over the top turn as Wendy Torrance proves, at times, hard to watch, this is a film that is dominated by its setting: the cold, empty and multicoloured prison that is the Overlook Hotel. Part ghost story, but largely psychological horror, The Shining delves into the darkest, cruellest and unknown parts of the human psyche, while testing the limits of filmmaking at the time. Tense, cold and still eerie after all these years, The Shining is perhaps one of Kubrick’s most underrated and under-appreciated films, and a must see for every horror fan.