The Shining ★★★★★

First off: I don't label this movie a horror film. Everyone else in our group was convinced, prior to viewing, that they'd be watching a horror movie. The Shining is more thriller, more drama, more suspense. It's also one of the best movies I've ever seen.

Stephen King's writing is brought to life by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who (along with Diane Johnson) adapted it for the screen. I haven't read the original novel so I can't make any comparisons, but the premise of the film is fantastic. Every single iota of the story captured my mind and demanded my attention.

Jack (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as winter caretaker for a huge mountain lodge (closed in the winter because the long road leading up to it is too costly to keep snow-free). With his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and young son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), they plan to occupy the giant hotel all by their lonesome for 5 months.

During the interview at the beginning of the film, the lodge manager explains that several years ago, the individual who took the caretaker job developed cabin fever, ultimately killing his two daughters, his wife, and then himself. Jack says that won't be an issue, and as a writer, is planning on using the isolation to get some much-needed work done. He gets the job, the hotel empties out, and he and his family begin their five-month stay.

What follows is Jack's slow descent into madness, and a fascinating character study on how complete isolation affects the human psyche. There's also a supernatural element to the film, with Jack's son, Danny, having some degree of telepathy and being able to see both past and future events. The film leads up to Jack snapping, including several notable scenes that have seeped into pop culture.

What makes The Shining work so well is that everything is crafted perfectly. Perfectly. I love the premise, and the writing for all the characters is wonderful, but I'm really blown away by the pacing—it moves along at just the right pace, for the entire film. That's something that many films—even great films—fail to achieve.

The music is chilling and shows up at all the right spots. The cinematography is beautiful and utilizes the big open spaces in the hotel to create several incredible dolly shots. One amazing scene features a low-angle steadycam following Danny on a tricycle through the winding hallways. The color red is used throughout the film, subconsciously drawing your mind back to an early premonition of young Danny, who saw blood pouring out of the hotel's elevator shaft.

But even after gushing about everything, we aren't to my favorite part: the performances. No one else could've played Jack. No one. Jack Nicholson is the perfect mix of frustration and madness, and the scene with him approaching a weeping Shelley Duvall on the staircase is absolutely mesmerizing and completely horrifying. That entire scene will stay with me for a long, long time.

Shelley is such an innocent face and likable character, who (knowing Kubrick's love for multiple takes) probably had to scream until her lungs didn't work anymore. And man, that kid was so talented. He's featured predominantly throughout the film and is completely believable. It's interesting that shortly after the film, Danny hung up his acting hat.

I'm sure you can tell by now, but I really, really enjoyed The Shining. It's only the 3rd Kubrick film I've seen (after 2001 and Clockwork), but by far my favorite.

"You've always been the caretaker. I should know sir. I've always been here."