The Shining

The Shining ★★★


Man, it's hard to watch this film normally after seeing Room 237—almost every shot found me involuntarily trying to pinpoint what background detail was allegedly significant regarding which crackpot theory. That's not altogether destructive, though, as the film "works" almost entirely as a formal exercise in spatial geometry, following its stick figures through the Overlook set's cavernous interiors and across its imposing exteriors. I've always concurred with Stephen King that Nicholson is badly miscast, bringing exactly the wrong kind of baggage to the role; Kubrick, for his part, seems entirely uninterested in Jack Torrance as a character, flipping the guy's switch to batshit literally the instant he's no longer being observed by outsiders. (The first shot of Jack after the hotel staff leaves sees him throwing the ball against the Indian sand painting; second scene has him verbally abusing Wendy for no reason; third time we see him he's doing the Kubrick Death Glare. It's seriously that fast.) To the extent that this is an adaptation of King's novel, it's a complete failure, and while Kubrick invents some chilling imagery—the manuscript, the elevator, the pseudo-Arbus twins—his main achievement here is simply the realization of the Overlook as a physical space. In a weird way, it doesn't really matter what the people onscreen are doing, so long as they're in constant motion. As I type that, it sounds kind of awesome, but while I'm actually watching the movie its oft-risible content too often works against its magnificent form. It's as if Paths of Glory had been shot exactly the same way, but using the script for Windtalkers and with every significant role miscast.