The Shining, the 1980 film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, is arguably accepted as one of the greatest horror films of all time.
The film, based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining and starring the likes of Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers and Danny Lloyd, tells the tale of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who takes the job as an off-season caretaker of the secluded ‘Overlook Hotel’ in Colorado.
Battling the extreme winter conditions with his wife Wendy Torrance and young son Danny, the boy then possesses “the shining” which is the terrifying abilities that allow him to see the hotel’s horrific past. It is these supernatural forces, combined with the winter storm leaving the family trapped in the hotel, that leads Jack’s sanity to deteriorate.
Incredibly, the production of the film was almost exclusively filmed at EMI Elstree Studios with expertly crafted sets which were based on real locations.
Upon release, the film failed to impress. The reviews were mixed and Warner Bros. called to a small profit. In fact, in an interview with Playboy in 1983, Stephen King himself felt let down by the result “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.”
On top of that, King offered his frustration at the casting of Jack Nicholson, claiming, “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part. His last big role had been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and the manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. But the book is about Jack Torrance’s gradual descent into madness through the malign influence of the Overlook—if the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.”
However, in the years to follow, a severe change in perception would develop. The reappraisal of the film would see critics who had initially struggled with The Shining, change their opinions and grown on board with the hypnotic quality of Kubrick’s work. In 2006, Roger Ebert, who was initially critical of the film upon release, then added The Shining into his Great Movies series: “Stanley Kubrick’s cold and frightening The Shining challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? It is this elusive open-endedness that makes Kubrick’s film so strangely disturbing.”
The director also made the set a family affair. After hiring his brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, Kubrick also included Christiane Kubrick and Vivian Kubrick, his wife and daughter respectively, who can be viewed in the behind-the-scenes shots.
So let’s get to it… “Heeeere’s the images”: