Sunday, October 31, 2010

Remembering The Shining

Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the Stephen King novel builds a palpable sense of horror by discarding all the most obvious devices of the genre.  Whereas most horror films are constructed based on the principle of total audience immersion, The Shining works hard to keeps us at arm's length instead.  As with most of Kubrick's films, form mirrors content.   The story centers on the horror of isolation, in both the remote setting of the Overlook hotel and within the Torrance family unit.  Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is rarely seen together with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son.  Stylistically, the film is composed largely of wide tracking shots that put distance between us and the characters.  When they are together, as in their initial drive to the hotel, Kubrick cleverly generates a greater sense of distance than when they are apart.   More often they are shown onscreen in pairs, but most of the time they are alone, exploring the haunted chambers of the hotel.  The book is more explicit about Jack's struggle with alcoholism and the demented exploits of the former hotel guests whose spirits haunt the grounds.  Kubrick favors something more ambiguous, forcing the audience to project their own fears onto the characters in order to make sense of them.  The shock images that remain from the book (like a man being phellated by someone in a bear costume) are deliberately stripped of their context.   Even during the broader comedic flourishes of Nicholson's performance, there is an air of foreboding that frightens by juxtaposing elements of the uncanny with more real aspects of the human psyche.  I chose The Shining for my annual scary movie night this year, and now I heartily recommend it to you (if you are someone who enjoys getting into the spirit of the Halloween season).  

No comments:

Post a Comment