November 17, 2018

Horror Favorites: The Shining (1980)

The Shining Poster
Andrew Kitzmiller [CC BY 2.0]
No horror film scared me more than The Shining (1980) did the first time I saw it, and no horror film has affected me as much since. This is why The Shining holds the top spot in any list of my favorite horror films. I credit it with sparking my lifelong love of horror films. To be sure, some of this is about nostalgia (i.e., it is about remembering what I felt when I watched it for the first time at a young age). But it is more than just nostalgia. I have continued to enjoy this film over the years, finding something else to like about it every time I watch it.

While I am not certain whether The Shining was the first horror film I ever saw, it was the first that scared me and the first I remember. I think I was about 11 or 12 at the time. My father had read Stephen King's book previously and wanted to see the movie. My parents decided to let me watch too. I don't remember having any idea that it was going to be scary.

I had nightmares for at least a week after watching it, but that wasn't the worst part. I also had what I can only describe as flashbacks or hallucinations. While I was fully awake, images from that film would repeatedly pop into my head and startle me. Without drugs or extreme stress, this was the closest thing I've had to visual hallucinations. Something as simple as walking into a dark room or closing my eyes while washing my face at the sink would prompt them. And each time, it was like it was real. I quickly realized it wasn't real, but for that brief second, I wasn't so sure. I'd be left with an intense adrenaline rush and have to talk myself down. This lasted for a few days.

As unpleasant as that experience sounds, I was hooked. I had no idea that any film could have that sort of effect on me, and even though I can't say I enjoyed much of the week after watching The Shining for the first time, I was left with the desire to find other films that would have a similar effect. I would soon become a horror junkie, chasing my next fix.

I watched The Shining again recently, and it continues to hold up extremely well for me. I can't say I still find it scary. I have seen it far too many times for that to be the case. What continues to stand out to me is the story, the acting, the score, and the visuals. If I had to pick one thing that has always made the film special to me, it would have to be the cinematography. From the opening scene to the end, it is a beautiful film with impressive camera work. The manner in which they used the steady cam in those hallway sequences still impresses even if it does not seem as unusual today as it did when the film was released. There is something about the look of the film that has always made it stand out.