The Shining (1980)
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall Director: Stanley Kubrick
Former teacher Jack Torrance (Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker of a huge, isolated mountain hotel. He and his wife, Wendy (Duvall), and son Danny are left alone in the place we soon learn to be haunted. In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his critically panned The Shining upon a very confused audience, most of whom found it too long, too slow and too hard to understand. Today the film is rightly considered one of the masterpieces of cinema, and the dialogue and imagery have become ingrained in popular culture. Jack Nicholson's showboating performance as the insane Torrance, at the time considered too over-the-top, is now his best known and beloved role. He chews his way through the countless scenes of twitching hysteria with such a demonic dedication it's impossible to take your eyes off him. The remote and overbearing Overlook Hotel (casually established as being built on an Indian burial mound) takes on the second most potent personality of the film. The endless corridors weaving like arteries around the upper floors feel as if they could conceal any number of horrors (and do) while the gigantic halls have an eerie look to them, as if they remember the past horrors and anticipate their repetition. Without question one of the scariest films ever made, there are few sudden shocks, very little direct violence and no deaths until the last ten minutes. But the audience must withstand a huge amount of creeping psychological pressure brought on by a combination of qualities, any of which on its own would make the film a must-see — the performances, the smoothly hypnotic camera work, and particularly the disorienting dips into Jack's broken mind as he chats with a former caretaker or wanders through a huge ballroom filled with dancers. Perhaps the most powerful quality is the film's totally unique nature. There is no reference in cinema, nothing even similar exists, so there's no way to predict what might happen next.