The Shining is among the ten most streamed films on HBO Max.
By Nathan Kamal | Published
Another Halloween has just come and gone, but it seems not everyone is ready to let go of the spooky season. That’s probably the reason The Shining, perhaps the top contender for scariest movie of all time, is among the ten most-watched movies on HBO Max, despite viewers well into Thanksgiving dinner and Mariah Carey holiday tunes. The Stephen King-Stanley Kubrick horror film is worth watching any time of the year, so hopefully it will stick around a little longer.
The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer, who has brought his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to a seasonal gig as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the remote Rocky Mountains. Despite the frailty of the family’s bond (primarily due to Jack having dislodged Danny’s arm while drunk) and the knowledge that a former janitor had butchered his family in the course of the exact same job, the trio settles into a long, cold, snowbound winter. Then scary things start happening, and all work and no play causes Jack to become…murderous.
The Shining is probably one of the most analyzed and iconic horror films of all time, if not in any genre. Images like the two eerie twin girls standing in a hallway, the snow-filled hedge maze, and even Jack Nicholson’s flat, dead stare have all become recognizable completely independently of the film itself, making any examination of it difficult. But, The Shining loses no power as a film for all that it has been dissected, parodied and imitated a million times.
It is to Stanley Kubrick’s credit that the film has such a continuous, palpable sense of dread, even though very little actually happens plot-wise in the film. But credit must also be given to Jack Nicholson, working at the height of his star power and ability, and Shelley Duvall, whose performance as the increasingly mentally exhausted Wendy was nominated for a Razzie Award (they took it back), reconsidered as an intense, physical artwork, described as misogynistic, a product of on-set abuse, and a dozen other things. And then there’s Stephen King himself.
The Shining was published in 1980, when Stephen King was already known as one of the best-selling authors in the world and a master of modern horror, while Stanley Kubrick had been recognized as arguably the most prominent filmmaker of his generation. Kubrick had just come off the relative commercial and critical disappointment Barry Lyndonwhile King was in the middle of a series of future film adaptations that Fire starter (later starring Drew Barrymore as a pyrokinetic child) and The dead zone (with a psychic Christopher Walken). Although Kubrick was not known as a horror director, it made a lot of sense for him to latch onto the potential box office success of a Stephen King work that The Shining.
Stephen King notoriously loathes Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, although he has mellowed a bit over the years. He eventually made his own TV miniseries version of his book, which has no threat of overshadowing the 1980 film version, but it is a testament to the power of the film version of The Shining that it occupied King’s mind so much that he could not let it be the decisive treatment of his work.
In that, Stephen King failed. The Shining was only the second of his works to be adapted for film (after the 1976 Carrie), but is undoubtedly the most recognized of the now dozens of films, TV miniseries, cartoons, plays and even operas based on his stories. The Shining did the hardest thing a horror film can ever attempt, which is to garner actual critical praise from society’s intelligentsia.
But, The Shining was only a moderate commercial success when it was released, receiving reviews that criticized it for its slow, deliberate pace (as if that wasn’t both intentional and inherent to the story) and the inexplicability of much of its now-iconic imagery. However, it’s clear that even 42 years later, people can’t get enough of this particular kind of slow terror.