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Tue November 2, 2021

The Shining

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"A majestically terrifying movie, where what you don't see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make."--Martin Scorsese

Horror's job is to startle one's wits through the macabre or menacing. But as film historian David Thomson has noted, "horror is really for idiots and children, but horror served up for adults might be the revival of screwball." So meet him halfway and say "The Shining is a screwball horror film, or at least screwy." Start with a farcical situation: a dysfunctional family holes up in an unoccupied lodge, so they can reclaim their domestic unity. Throw in a dad (Jack Nicholson) prone to erratic behavior, a son (Danny Lloyd) who is a lightning rod for psychic forces, and a mom, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), prewired for hysteria. Tamp down the snowdrifts, cut the phone lines, and "Here's Johnny." With the farce in place, don't forget the residue of ectoplasmic happenstance. Those ghosts of tragedies past don't need reservations--Room 237 is theirs for the taking. Built around mishaps and manias, The Shining is a shape-shifting labyrinth of temporal switchbacks and spatial anomalies. Rooms morph, hallways fold in, and time is layered like a supernatural parfait. The virtuosic use of Steadicam blends it all into a fluid zone of enchantment with primal panic as the adhesive. Kubrick orchestrates this comedy of terrors with chthonic aplomb, relishing set pieces that totter precariously near the abyss that is family. Final definition: a screwball is a pitch with misdirection, or in this case a pitchfork.

o Written by Kubrick, Diane Johnson, based on the novel by Stephen King. Photographed by John Alcott. With Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers. (144 mins, Color, DCP, From Warner Bros.)
"A majestically terrifying movie, where what you don't see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make."--Martin Scorsese

Horror's job is to startle one's wits through the macabre or menacing. But as film historian David Thomson has noted, "horror is really for idiots and children, but horror served up for adults might be the revival of screwball." So meet him halfway and say "The Shining is a screwball horror film, or at least screwy." Start with a farcical situation: a dysfunctional family holes up in an unoccupied lodge, so they can reclaim their domestic unity. Throw in a dad (Jack Nicholson) prone to erratic behavior, a son (Danny Lloyd) who is a lightning rod for psychic forces, and a mom, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), prewired for hysteria. Tamp down the snowdrifts, cut the phone lines, and "Here's Johnny." With the farce in place, don't forget the residue of ectoplasmic happenstance. Those ghosts of tragedies past don't need reservations--Room 237 is theirs for the taking. Built around mishaps and manias, The Shining is a shape-shifting labyrinth of temporal switchbacks and spatial anomalies. Rooms morph, hallways fold in, and time is layered like a supernatural parfait. The virtuosic use of Steadicam blends it all into a fluid zone of enchantment with primal panic as the adhesive. Kubrick orchestrates this comedy of terrors with chthonic aplomb, relishing set pieces that totter precariously near the abyss that is family. Final definition: a screwball is a pitch with misdirection, or in this case a pitchfork.

o Written by Kubrick, Diane Johnson, based on the novel by Stephen King. Photographed by John Alcott. With Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers. (144 mins, Color, DCP, From Warner Bros.)
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3117 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

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