Okay, so I know I say this every time but I have a rather large confession this week: There are very few Horror films that I’ve actually sat down and watched properly. I’ve never seen Halloween, Friday the 13th, or The Exorcist. Nor have I seen more recent horrors like The Blair Witch Project, or Paranormal Activity. I’m convinced this aversion is similar to the one I had to rollercoasters: my mum doesn’t like heights and my sister doesn’t like going upside down so I was convinced I would like neither. Luckily, one day I tried some “scary” looking ‘coasters and, as it turned out, they’re freakin’ fun!
The same thing happened with horror films, I was never really exposed to them when I was younger. I wasn’t even allowed to see The Nightmare Before Christmas until I was 5 incase it was too scary!
I’ve seen a few now, and while I’m not sure I found any truly terrifying, I have really enjoyed my drop-in-the-ocean experience. So when cinemas in the UK united to screen Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining on Halloween last week, there was no way I was going to miss out on finally seeing my biggest cinematic crime yet.
And it was definitely worth the wait. Not only is the crowd at the GFT always fab – laughter at awkward moments and the odd terrified gasp making it more of an experience than watching it alone in the house – it was certainly a good way to start a Halloween night out. What did catch me by surprise was how much of a slow burner The Shining is. There are three scenes where Danny, the young boy, is exploring the hotel on his wee trike, and every time I was expecting him to turn a corner and encounter the the twin girls. It made for a more tense viewing as I was constantly on edge. I also felt that the slower pace more sinister than scary: the iconic music weighing heavily over the film being the most obvious sign of things not being quite right rather than the visuals alone.
Then again, perhaps it didn’t feel scary to me because I’ve been subjected to spoilers for the most part of my life. The Shining has been parodied more times than I can list here, with the most iconic moment being Jack Nicholson’s “Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”. The unfortunate fallout of that is it becomes one of the weakest parts of the film, at least in first watching. It’s also hard to feel cultured and filmy when all you can think of is how certain scenes were adapted. Honestly, the scene where the cook is axed in the back by a particularly sneaky Nicholson, rather than jumping out my skin, I caught myself thinking “oh yeah”, remembering Groundskeeper Willie meeting the same fate in The Simpsons – Treehouse of Horror X.
It’s occasions like this where debates on spoilers come to mind. While this is fairly old news now, it has been shown in studies that spoilers don’t ruin the consumers enjoyment: be it film, TV or literature. In fact, in some cases it even increases it. I felt The Shining was tense and slowly paced because I was anticipating certain scenes which made for infuriatingly enjoyable viewing but at the same time, any real suspense was ruined by former knowledge that Jack Torrance ends up dead and frozen in the snow. I think I prefer to have my media unspoiled for the majority but it definitely makes for some interesting discussion
Speaking of Jack Nicholson, his performance as the new caretaker of the creepy Overlook Hotel is undoubtedly the reason The Shining is considered classic cinema. I always knew Nicholson could do crazy well but this really blew it all out of the water. His character is a freaking maniac! While I don’t understand his tirade of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” since his wife was forever asking him to do other things so he clearly had opportunities, his slow descent into madness is portrayed perfectly and is intensely disturbing.
Each face pulled as the film goes on is magnificent with his most crazed appearances eliciting a rippling giggle in the theatre – a collective nervous laugh as we wondered why the mother and son hadn’t picked up on this clearly disturbed man.
I really can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see The Shining. I’ve honestly not been trying to avoid it. If any of you have found yourself in the same predicament, I urge you to cancel your plans and catch it in the numerous arthouse cinemas in the UK that are showing the extended US cut for a short time only. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s really worth going just to check out how large Shelley Duvall’s teeth are on the big screen. She could literally eat you alive.
Happy belated Halloween!