‘A treatise on mental illness, alcoholism and domestic abuse as much as it is a haunted house movie,’ Exeter animator Ashley Thorpe‘s series on horror films continues with Stanely Kubrick’s The Shining.
THE SHINING – 1980
Stanley Kubrick was offered the job of directing The Exorcist, but turned it down considering it a ‘run of the mill horror’. Perhaps seeing what was eventually achieved changed his mind.
I first saw a clip of The Shining as a child on (believe it or not) Mike Reid’s Runaround. It was a Halloween special and also featured clips from Murnau’s Nosferatu (as well as a decidedly camp cameo from a coffin bound Kenneth Williams!).
The clip (27min 25) shown was of a little boy (Danny Torrance) on a tricycle pedalling furiously through a hotels labyrinthine carpetted corridors, the camera sailing behind him like a spectre itself. I couldn’t help but identify.
The textural qualities were beautiful hearing the trikes wheels move from carpet to wooden floor, carpet, floor it was hypnotic. The little boy paused at a particular door: room 237. He tries the handle. It’s locked. Hesitantly he moves away then pedals flat out to put distance between them.
The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance, a frustrated writer, who accepts the job of a winter caretaker at the remote Overlook hotel. The hotel has a murderous history, and though Jack at first dismisses the stories, once arriving with his family, once snowbound and isolated the hotels ghosts become terrifyingly real.
With Kubrick at the helm this was never going to be a ‘run of the mill horror’ and the film can be seen as a treatise on mental illness, alcoholism and domestic abuse as much as it is a haunted house movie.
For me, personally, the film’s greatest strength is Kubrick’s camera, diirected by cinematograper John Alcott. The hotel space is fathomless and Kubricks camera moves restlessly through it; relentlessly seeking, silently stalking the Torrances as they discover the hotels true caretakers. Terror has never been so beautifully choreographed.
When Danny returns to his tricycle (35min) to roam the Overlooks corridors his journey does not end at room 237. He is confronted by the almost Lynch-like spectacle of twin girls,identically dressed, in a composition as beautiful and eerie as a magritte. ‘Come and play with us’ they intone, as flashes of their grisly murder is revealed. ‘Forever and ever’
Posted by Ashley Thorpe
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