The Shining (1980)
The thing about Kubrick, judging from most accounts, is that it was almost as unbearable to be on the set of his filming as it is watching the horror he creates. This was probably never more correct than with The Shining – a film which has created its own standard in horror, and still is the source of numerous interpretations nearly thirty years after its release. Being the one and only Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick collaboration, the story seems to have brought out something very distinct in both, without the end product necessarily being as complete or fulfilled as it could have been. Kubrick and King reportedly disagreed on quite a few things regarding the adaptation. Not surprisingly, it was Kubrick who got his way and created the film as he wanted it.
One of the things Kubrick insisted on was to cast Jack Nicholson in the lead. The effect was predictable but absolutely harrowing, as Nicholson delves into his character with frightening conviction. It's as if Jack Torrance is the real Jack Nicholson, and the actor had just been waiting for the chance to exhibit his demons. This does of course take away some of the surprise effect in the character that King had been wanting, because Nicholson seems to be ready to pop from the get go, but on the other hand it generates even more questions to that famous final shot. Was something in him yearning to go back?
What makes The Shining a horror classic are the bold and enormous sets and scenes. They are unworldly and totally uncontrollable for the characters and the viewer alike. This is all Kubrick – he overwhelms us and makes us completely defenceless to the vastness and endlessness of The Overlook Hotel and the powers it holds. The delicate and stylish way he portrays it in makes the film a poetic work of art – in everything from Danny's tricycling via the scenes in the vibrant Gold Room to the segments in the incredible maze.
Every good horror film has something inconclusive in the nature of the story – this is what make them scary. Because the scariest things are what we can feel, but cannot quite pin down. This is not the same as making something unexplainable or random, as many recent horror films have succumbed to. The Shining has a delicate balance between the story's psychological aspects and the more supernatural elements. And it is disturbingly real and unreal at the same time. For this reason, it is one of the eeriest of all time.