Shining, The (1980)

The Shining (1980), produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

I hadn't seen this for a long time. It's one of my least favorite Kubrick films, but I liked it a bit better than I had remembered.

The good parts are the slow teasing buildup, the effective atmosphere for all the thriller bits, a scary score (some of which sounds just like Jerry Goldsmith to me, although he wasn't involved), and some genuine shock moments. My favorite is poor Scatman Crothers, flying cross country to rescue them, then -- ouch!

Shelley Duvall was born to (a) play Olive Oyl, and (b) be terrified by axe-wielding Jack Nicholson. Considering her makes me realize that this is something of a woman's horror film: fear for a child, dread of a husband gone wrong.

Three big problems. First, Nicholson needs to be restrained by his director, which doesn't happen here.

Second, horror films must at least make a gesture toward an explanation, offering reasons for what happens. I am impatient with films like 1408 which don't even make an effort. Here we have candidates but the plot never gels around any of them. At various times we are supposed to be afraid of:

The up-front musical cues and shock themes clue us to all of these. If the point is that we can't know and must just keep wondering: it's lost on me in this case. (Although it works for me in The Birds (1963) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) -- I'm not sure why the difference here).

Lastly, after a long build-up and terror-o-rama climax, it just slumps to the ending. Mom's in the house, Dad is running around and bellowing in the maze. Then he's dead. The end.

The Shining has been analyzed to death, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that Barry Nelson as hotel manager Stuart Ullman is the close image of "Al" Ullman, prominent congressman of the period.

Google "Room 237": a startling number of hits.

Available on Blu-ray. Great natural color.