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Review: The Shining – “A masterpiece of horror” – Back in cinemas on 31st October

Stanley Kubrick’s iconic foray into horror has been analysed, dissected and scrutinised in every way but as its cinema re-release this Halloween demonstrates, even 37 years later it still has a dreamlike power to both mesmerise and terrorise.

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, it’s incredible that decades after its first release, The Shining is still a mysterious film. It’s legendary not just for the intense debate surrounding its meaning but also for its iconic and visceral imagery, so impactful they sear themselves into your memory. Now you can relive it, as the film gets its re-release in cinemas across the UK accompanied with a new documentary, ‘Work and Play’ which delves into the history and impact of the film.

So much has already been analysed and said about The Shining (and I’m not going to re-tread them here), but whichever school of thought you subscribe to, this a film you have to experience on the big screen. The Overlook’s lifts of blood, the geometric carpets, REDRUM and the hypnotic tracking shots that it is now synonymous with almost take on a dreamlike, subconscious quality. You could easily become mesmerised by it, only breaking from the trance by the heavy strings and brash electric chords of the unique soundtrack. The point is that whilst we all know The Shining (it has made such an impression on pop culture that even if you haven’t seen it you are likely to know its key scenes) there is something incredible and terrifying about re-living on the big screen in the dark.

The Shining of course, has some legendary performances. Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness boils from marital arguments into exploding overblown madness. Despite the accusations of overacting, Nicholson makes the role his own, no one in my mind could replicate that depth of performance. Shelley Duvall is effective as a protective mother and wife trying to get a grip on what is happening an ultimately what is real. For a film which really has three principal characters, the performances are engaging and scary.

The Shining isn’t only famous for the finished film, it’s also infamous for behind the scenes tales of Kubrick’s perfectionism, Stephen King’s dislike of the film, hundreds of takes of the same scenes and Shelley Duvall not having the best of times. Lucky, the re-release sheds some light on the making of the film with a 7-minute documentary, Work and Play’ directed by Matt Wells. The documentary is a nice retrospective told by from those who were there, including Jan Harlan (Producer), Garett Brown (Steadicam Operator) and Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian Kubrick. It is a nice overview with some good anecdotes from the set, but hard-core fans will know most of it already. Despite this, it’s a nice accompaniment and it also gives you a chance to see what the Grady twins (Lisa and Louise Burns) look like now, which is a bonus for everyone.

Whether you have seen the Shining of not, it’s a masterpiece of horror and belongs on the big screen. It’s unconventional, ambiguous and mysterious, blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural. It’s this that makes the film so unsettling and effective and a must see.

The Shining and its bonus documentary Work & Play: A Short Film about the Shining are playing in cinemas across the UK on the 31st October.

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