The Shining (European version, dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
“When we see a flash of bloody cadavers or observe a torrent of blood pouring from an elevator, we’re not frightened, because Kubrick’s absorption in film technology distances us. Each shot seems rigorously calculated, meticulous, and he keeps the scenes going for so long that any suspense dissipates. … Over and over, the camera tracks the characters, and by the climax, when we’re running around in the hedge maze on the hotel grounds, the rhythmic sameness has worn us down. It’s like watching a skater do figure eights all night, or at least for two hours and twenty-six minutes. … It took nerve, or maybe something more like hubris, for Kubrick to go against all convention and shoot most of this Gothic in broad daylight. … There isn’t a dark comer anywhere; even the kitchen storerooms have a fluorescent boldness. But the conventions of Gothics are fun. Who wants to see evil in daylight, through a wide-angle lens? We go to The Shining hoping for nasty scare effects and for an appeal to our giddiest nighttime fears—vaporous figures, shadowy places. What we get doesn’t tease the imagination. Visually, the movie often feels like a cheat, because most of the horror images are not integrated into the travelling shots; the horrors involved in the hotel’s bloody past usually appear in inserts that flash on like the pictures in a slide show. … What’s increasingly missing from Kubrick’s work is the spontaneity, the instinct, the lightness that would make us respond intuitively. We’re starved for pleasure at this movie; when we finally get a couple of exterior nighttime shots with theatrical lighting, we’re pathetically grateful. As Wendy, trying to escape from Jack, opens a window and looks at the snowstorm outside, and then as she pushes Danny out and he slides down the snowbank, we experience, for a second or two, the spectral beauty we have been longing for. Earlier (in the film’s most imaginative, chilling scene), when Wendy looked at the pile of manuscript that her husband had been working on, she found only one sentence, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ typed over and over. Well, all work and no play makes Stanley a dull boy, too.” —Pauline Kael
Score: 6½ to 7− out of 10.