- Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance
- Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance
- Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance
- Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann
- Philip Stone as Delbert Grady
The Shining is a deeply intense and atmospheric film from the talented Stanley Kubrick. Based on the book by horror author Stephen King and featuring a terrifying performance from Jack Nicholson, The Shining burns itself into the memory with haunting visuals, unsettling score and eerie story.
Jack Torrance is a former schoolteacher who in the opening scenes of the film applies for a job as the off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, which is situated in Colorado. Because of the often bitter winters, the hotel is often cut off from the outside world. Jack believes this is what he needs as he is attempting to write a book and wants some isolation to concentrate on his work. He is warned however about the sinister events that occurred with the last caretaker, Delbert Grady. He was a mild-mannered man who because of the intense cabin fever he experienced was driven insane and proceeded to murder his wife and two young daughters with an axe, before unloading the barrels of a gun into his head. Undaunted, Jack brings his meek wife Wendy and young son Danny to the hotel after receiving the job. Upon arrival, the hotel cook Dick Hallorann notices something about the young Danny. Danny has what he calls ‘The Shining’ which is the ability to see events in the past as well as the future. Danny’s knowledge of what has happened and will happen manifests itself as an imaginary friend called Tony. Danny, out of his family is the first to come into contact with the haunting presence of former misdeeds as creepy visions float through his mind. Jack, who we learn is a recovering alcoholic and abusive man, also starts to disintegrate as his tenure at the hotel goes on, until he descends into full-on madness from which no one is safe.
Stanley Kubrick is at the height of his cinematic powers directing this eerie piece of psychological terror. He gives The Shining an atmospheric and ambiguous pulse that reaches out and sucks the viewer in with spellbinding menace. Ever the craftsman, Kubrick employs gliding camerawork to show us the sheer scope of the hotel and the sinister sets of events that keep replaying. Kubrick manages to successfully blur the lines between what is real and what is not and he does this with assured skill and unsettling pace. What I’ve always admired about The Shining, is the use of repetition. The repetition of certain phrases, the repetition of visions and mirrors gives the film a deeply unsettling sense of disturbed and subtle horror. Memorable scenes abound in this film from the cascading river of blood that emerges from an elevator, the ghosts of the dead girls dressed in identical clothes beckoning a terrified Danny to play with them “forever and ever” and not forgetting Jack, axe in hand, roaring “Here’s Johnny” as his terrified wife Wendy almost crumbles in hysterics. An ominous score perfectly accentuates the encroaching horror that engulfs the family during their stay at the hotel with ghostly piano, sinister synthesizers and doom-laden strings .
Jack Nicholson is outstanding in the role of Jack Torrance, whose already fragile grip on reality begins to fall away as he becomes victim to the hotel’s past. Filled with wild-eyed mania and imposing stance, Nicholson creates an unforgettable portrait of mental disintegration. Shelley Duvall encompasses the simpering, meek and mousy personality of Wendy, who almost too late begins to see what her husband has become and has to fight to survive his spiral into madness. The young Danny Lloyd brings a certain level of maturity to the character but shows that despite his knowledge of what is going on, he is still a terrified child. Scatman Crothers brings a wise side to the role of the hotel cook who also possesses the same gift as Danny, while Philip Stone sends shivers down the spine as the ghost of the former caretaker, who coerces Jack into committing violent acts.
From the stunning opening shots to the chilling last frame, The Shining is an unforgettable film of psychological terror.