As we wrap up the end of summer and enter my favorite season…Autumn, I wanted to talk about a scary movie. My favorite scary movie actually. THE SHINING by director Stanley Kubrick. I will discuss the music a little so its not entirely off topic but every now and then its nice to get these things off your chest. So WHY is The Shining So SCARY???
This is not easy to answer because the movie is quite unconventional and not your traditional horror flick. This film has barely any cliches; it is a horror movie that takes place in the day time kind of experience. But I will begin with the music.
What we have is this stylistically modernist art-music that is startling from the very beginning of the film. Composer Wendy Carlos, who previously did the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange with her unique interpretations of Beethoven, comes up with some crazy demonic synthesized material to showcase here. Mr. Kubrick also used a lot of strange avant-garde sounds that really set the mood for this film. It is effortlessly disturbingly creepy from the beginning right through to the end, because the music is constant.
Now let’s focus on the camera. What’s really creepy about The Shining is the fact that it’s filmed in Stanley Kubrick’s trademark “detached” style. The camera is watching the events unfold. The camera IS the hotel watching them. The camera IS the evil spirit watching them.
You never know what could happen next. Like most Kubrick films, it’s never straightforward and nothing is ever predictable. Events happen randomly and unexpected: balls rolling down the corridors, twin girls randomly appearing and speaking at the same time, a naked woman kisses Jack Nicholson’s character and then turns saggy and green (as you do). It’s like the average dream of hallucinations mixed with schizophrenia. Quite weird and yet, very disturbing. Which, makes it even more genius.
On a side note, I don’t really care that Stephen King hated this film based on his novel. Boo F%$king Hoo! So what? This is an independent movie not to be so meticulously compared to a book. I first saw this film when I was 10 years old never reading the darn book and yet it stands out in my head quite lovely. Purists will find faults in the film but I frankly don’t give a damn. It was Kubrick’s vision and it was delivered quite brilliantly actually.
So a lot of tension builds throughout the movie. I am always at the edge of my seat, sweating while watching it. The slow building of pace adds to the excitement, to the intrigue and I become more and more engaged with the characters, and more drawn into the film, meaning that each and every shock in the film affected me deeply and profoundly.
There are gut-wrenching images such as long hallways, snowy mazes, Jack holding an axe and so on. There are no other horror films that work like this one. HALLOWEEN only works because you know what happens next, yet with this, you just give up and let it work on you again.
Maybe it’s the crazy concept: the idea that a husband and father is going to kill his son and wife. As you might have noticed, I am struggling for answers here, the thing about this film is, I can pick it apart, dissect how it works, yet the fact of the matter is that it still works no matter what. It has something that you can’t place your finger on. Or in other words, perhaps it’s so mysteriously atmospheric, that it creates a disturbing feeling, because it’s so unnatural, and you never know what could be hidden around each corner.
But for me anyway, what’s most frightening about The Shining is the fact that I don’t know why I’m so terrified while watching it. I just am.