War of the Words: The Shining

It’s Halloween, so let’s take a look at what is widely regarded as the scariest film ever made; Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name (but not the same story, apparently), it’s got its mega fans and it’s got its giant cynics. This week, Harry Musson and George Naylor battle it out over whether all work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy…

In Defence

Usually, I dislike horror films; I’d much rather wet my pants laughing than from genuine fear.  However, The Shining is one of those rare exceptions.  It’s chilling, disturbing, terrifying and directed brilliantly by one of the greats, Stanley Kubrick.

“The thing that strikes you is the pace of the movie, this masterpiece slowly unwinds.”

The thing that strikes you is the pace of the movie. As opposed to most horror flicks, which pummel the viewer at a million miles an hour, this masterpiece slowly unwinds. The majority of the film feels almost hypnotic. We follow Danny on his tricycle down endless hotel corridors. Or listen to Jack hammering away at his typewriter. We know something isn’t quite right but it’s only in the last 30 minutes that our worst fears are realised. Kubrick gradually ups the tension and the suspense until (like the characters) it all goes a bit mental. The acting is captivating from the three leads, but it’s Jack Nicholson who steals the show and delivers an unforgettable performance.

Essential viewing.

Harry Musson

In Offence

The Shining is well-directed and has interesting psychological elements. That’s it. Had it not had Stanley Kubrick’s name on it, it would not be remembered as the horror classic it is regarded as today. Shelley Duvall’s performance is terrible; the delivery of her (sometimes equally terrible) lines is so bad, it’s sometimes off-putting. As for Nicholson, yes, he’s obviously a great actor, but he’s a bit crazy anyway. Especially since he was mentally unstable in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest only five years before, his descent into madness isn’t that shocking or sympathetic.

“Had it not had Stanley Kubrick’s name on it, it would not be remembered as a horror classic”

I even used to like The Shining not long ago, so I don’t ‘need to mature more to get it’. And another thing; at 144 minutes, it’s way too long. And I can handle long films; I love The Godfather Part II and that’s 200 minutes. I wanted to like it, but it could have been so much better.

George Naylor

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