The shinning (1980)
Sometimes all good horror needs is a good idea. But sometimes, rarely indeed, a horror masterpiece will reach us by the hand of a Kubrick, with the adept, elusive touch of a great artist to guide the vision, and we know what separates it from all else.
Okay, the story has enough promise that even a hired gun would have to try to fail. Heck, even Stephen King himself didn't fare so bad. It's how Kubrick perceives King's universe however, how he fills the frame with it, that renders THE SHINING a feast for the senses. Horror that will reach us through the mind and body alike, an assault as it were, tending eventually its pitch to a crescendo, yet curiously not without a delicate lull.
Kubrick's cinema is, as usually, a sight to behold. We get the adventurous camera that prowls through the lavish corridors of the Overlook Hotel like it is some kind of mystic labyrinth rife for exploration, linear tracking shots exposing impeccably decorated interiors in symmetric grandeur. The geometrical approach in how Kubrick perceives space reminds me very much of Japanese directors of some 10 years before. In that what is depicted in the frame, the elements of narrative, is borderline inconsequential to how they all balance and harmonize together.
Certain images stand out in this. The first shot of Jack's typewriter, ominously accompanied by the off-screen thumps of a ball, drums of doom that seem to emanate from the very walls or the typewriter itself, an instrument of doom in itself as is later shown. A red river flowing through the hotel's elevators in a poetry of slow motions. Jack hitting the door with the axe, the camera moving along with him, tracking the action as it happens, as though it's the camera piercing through the door and not the axe. The ultra fast zoom in the kid's face violently thrusting us inside his head before we see the two dead girls from his POV. And of course, the epochal bathroom scene.
Much has been said of Jack Nicholson's obtrusive overacting. His mad is not entirely successful, because, well, he's Jack Nicholson. The guy looks half-mad anyway. Playing mad turns him into an exaggerated caricature of himself. Shelley Duvall on the other hand is one of the most inspired casting choices Kubrick ever made. Coming from a streak of fantastic performances for Robert Altman in the seventies (3 WOMEN, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE), she brings to her character the right amounts of swanlike fragility and emotional distress. A delicate, detached thing thrown in with the mad. IMDB