Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 26: The Shining (1980)
If you take away nothing else from these 400-or-so words on 1980’s iconic thriller The Shining, take away this: Man, this movie holds up.
The Jack Nicholson-led film—which was my first thriller as a pre-teen—masters numerous elements of what makes a thriller, well, thrilling. There’s isolation, suspension, anticipation, an underlying eeriness to each character. Set in rural mountain west, Jack Torrance (Nicholson) takes a job as a hotel caretaker for the winter, moving himself, his wife, and his son to the lodging post for the season. An aspiring writer, Torrance plans to use the season with no distractions to perfect his craft, only the isolation drives him (and his family) mad; cabin fever at its finest.
Of all the aforementioned amenities The Shining offers to its viewers, isolation proves the true backbone of the film. The idea of being trapped, alone, and hidden from the world creeps into the viewer with each scene. As each character dives further into madness, the viewer feels a little more invested, a little more sucked into the hotel. Every scene pulls the viewer tighter in, while leaving him or her understanding more how the loneliness and restlessness eats away at the film’s characters. It’s a totally engrossing experience, leaving each viewer emotionally withdrawn and equally isolated by the ending of the film.
This emotional investment hits its focal point with the iconic 10 words delivered—spelled out on paper—from Nicholson’s character: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” All work, indeed.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining also thrives in its simplicity. Delivering an over-arching empty creepiness throughout the picture, it works with what it doesn’t say as much as what it does say. It’s as though, with its booming shots of the mountains and wide angle takes at the hotel, it’s giving the viewer an enormous canvas to fill in as he or she sees fit. The scenic landscape, the minimal dialogue, the drawn-out setups of scenes—each act as a launching pad for the viewer to use to blast off into his or her own twisted imagination. The concert of letting the viewer ‘fill in the blanks’ at certain moments allows for an extra chill to roll down the spine.
And, if none of the above makes you want to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve with this chilling classic, think about the pop culture references you’d be missing. Finally, lines like “Here’s Johnny!,” “Redrum,” and ““Come play with us, Danny. Forever… and ever… and ever” would make sense. That alone is worth the price of admission, right? Not watching The Shining could make for a dull Halloween, after all.