My top-ten horror films #1

1 – THE SHINING (1980)

TheShining

Another example of a director (Stanley Kubrick) who worked outside the genre trying his hand at scaring people. And I reckon, with help from his writing colleague Diane Johnson, he hits the bullseye. Dread seeps through every frame.

I know this film is accused of being over-the-top due to its bug-eyed performances from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, but I really think it is quite a subtle picture. I think the cold, clean symmetry of the shots, the pared down spikes of incidental music (if it can be called such a thing), the long Steadicam sequences really add to the pressure being exerted by the forces at work within this dysfunctional family and the malevolent roof over its head.

I like how Kubrick has faith in his own timing. He has patience. In lesser hands the scene in Room 237 (changed from the novel’s 217 because owners of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, the real-life hotel posing as the Overlook hotel, didn’t want potential guests refusing to stay in it) would have ended with Jack Torrance snatching back the curtain for a ‘jump scare’. Instead we witness from Jack’s POV the shower curtain as it is elegantly teased back by the woman in the bath after an unbearably long wait. Kubrick favourites Joe Turkel and Philip Stone play excellently creepy hotel staff members (you will never hear the word ‘corrected’ laden with more menace).

The novel by Stephen King is a dear favourite of mine, but it was after watching this film for the first time that my flesh began to crawl at the sight of every long, lonely hotel corridor I had to traverse. A brutal, relentless and very, very scary masterpiece.

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