The majority of people who see The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's film adaption of Stephen King's third novel, tend to either love or hate the film. Horror movie fans often call The Shining one of the best modern horror films in existence, while others (many of the fans of the book who reject director Kubrick's alterations to the story) absolutely hate it. Though a huge fan of the book (in my opinion possibly King's scariest work), I happen to belong to the first group, and consider The Shining to be one of the finest examples of a horror film there is, and I feel that what Kubrick brings to this tale of ghostly psychological terror helps it rather than hinders.
The Shining is all-around a solid collection of a perfect setting, perfect direction, and an excellent cast. It is also full of some wonderfully horrifying visuals; scenes that few who have seen the film are likely to ever forget. Elevator shafts overflow with blood; empty rooms suddenly populate with corpses, and are empty again, etc. But mostly what drives is the truly amazing work of Jack Nicholson. Nicholson gives what ranks as the most recognizable performance of his career as Jack Torrance, a man seduced by the evil of the Overlook Hotel. In Nicholson, the utterly terrifying concept of a man violently and sadistically attacking his own family comes to life.
Many of the film's detractors point to Nicholson's portrayal of Torrance as their reason for disliking the film; claiming that Nicholson is far too over-the-top from the opening moments of the movie to really convey Torrance's slow descent into madness. This claim might hold validity if The Shining were meant to be viewed as a direct translation of novel to film. Instead, Kubrick's film is actually a reinterpretation of King's book; one man's story as seen through another man's eyes. Kubricks' vision of Jack Torrance lends itself to Nicholson's portrayal of the character, and vice versa. Purists paying too close attention to how different the story might be, or how differently the character of Torrance is shown, fail to appreciate what Kubrick accomplishes in terms of outright visceral horror.
At the time The Shining was made, Kubrick's extensive use of the Steadicam and his long, slow, brooding takes were fairly groundbreaking, but even today they manage to appear fresh and frightening, scary and stylish. The tweaks and small additions he made to the story don't really bring much to the film, but his visual style is quite distinct and remarkably effective. This was Kubrick's first attempt at making a horror film, and despite not being very familiar with the genre's conventions and trappings, he still manages to do an incredible job of making The Shining both convincingly realistic and impressively terrifying.
To this day The Shining carries on a legacy of being a truly scary horror film, one of the best from an era full of excellent horror movies. It is as scary today as it was in , and probably scarier than anything that has come since. Despite a more 'official' adaptation of the novel made for television in the late s, Kubrick's version of The Shining remains the definitive film interpretation of this now-classic story of modern horror.
Strict fans of the novel upon which it is based may be put off by Stanley Kubrick's tinkering, but those who can see past the alterations are in for a treat. One of the best horror films of the modern age, The Shining remains a truly terrifying classic that is still just as scary today as it was twenty years ago.