Long before Slipknot stole ideas from this film for their "Wait And Bleed" video, Empire magazine had already heralded it as "the scariest movie of all time" ...

Recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson in overdrive) applies for the job of off-peak caretaker in a huge isolated hotel set in the snowy mountains. While there throughout the long winter months, he hopes to use the solitude to help him write his first novel. One word of warning offered to Jack during the job interview is that one previous caretaker went stir crazy during a particularly bad winter, eventually taking an axe to his wife and daughters. Jack, however, is confident that the same will not happen to him.

Buying into the adventure, his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) also make the move - despite Danny's imaginary friend warning him that bad things are going to happen.

Once at the hotel, the family meet Halloran (Scatman Crothers) - a friendly chef who shows them around the place. While visiting the kitchen, Halloran pulls Danny to one side. He has recognised that the child has a gift called "the shining" - the ability to see things from both the past and the future, not to mention being capable of communicating telepathically with fellow 'shiners'.

Before long, however, the amiable Halloran has gone home for the holidays along with the rest of the Overlook hotel's staff, and the Torrances are left with room after room of vast open spaces to gradually grow insanely bored in.

The isolation hits Jack first, and most severely. Writer's block soon gives way to demons that surface in Jack - literally. The trick that director Stanley Kubrick pulls off is keeping it ambiguous as to whether these demons are ghosts from the hotel's bloody past, or merely figments of Jack's alcohol-starved madness.

Needless to say, the family unit breaks down further as Jack drifts into dementia, Wendy becomes more suspicious and, consequently, hysterical by the day - and Danny is repeatedly haunted by visions of dead girls, and a room he definitely shouldn't be venturing into ...!

Teetering constantly between the portrait of a man desperately struggling with his own sanity, and the conventions of a classic haunted house tale, THE SHINING effectively lulls it's viewer in with a slow beginning. The pace soon picks up though, sopecifically towards the end when the three family members are pitted against each other in an unforgettable example of perfectly sustained terror (including the justifiably famous "Heeeere's Johnny!" bathroom scene).

Tense and genuinely creepy, it's hard to believe that author Stephen King took such a dislike to Kubrick's adaptation. Aside from sterling performances and masterful direction, the film is blessed with excellent cinematography and camerawork that work together to create a truly stunning visual experience - not to mention atmospheric and unnerving.

The only weak link is the music. It's overly melodramatic and smacks of a film-maker trying way too hard to scare his audience. Minor gripe aside though (along with the criminal underuse of Crothers), this a magnificent acheivement and worthy of the term 'modern horror classic'. It deserves to be in ever genre fan's collection. But don't buy the UK disc!!

The US disc from Warner Bros is the only way to view this film.

For a start, the main feature runs a full half-hour longer than it's Region 2 counterpart. A lot of the extra material occurs early on, with additional background given to the family unit and more insight surrounding the impact Jack's alcoholism has had on their home life. But there's more ... later in the movie there are extra scenes that confirm the hotel as an evil entity in itself, and that Jack has indeed been driven crazy/possessed by the spirits of the Overlook's former occupants. This makes for an altogether more satisfying conclusion.

The US disc also scores points with the inclusion of a 5.1 surround remix - in English and French - that jolts it's viewer in all the right places.

"The Making Of THE SHINING" is a brilliant 35 minute documentary actually shot on the set of the film by Kubrick's daughter Vivian. It's a great insight into this gruelling production, with many out-takes and candid interviews to be enjoyed. Nicholson playing up to Viv's camera in-between takes is especially gratifying. What's more, the documentary even comes with it's own commentary track from Ms Kubrick!

Rounding off affairs is the original theatrical trailer. Which is no great shakes, admittedly, but we'd soon complain if it wasn't included!

The visual quality of the main feature is very pleasing - a 2000 digital master from restored elements, and as good as we're ever likely to see the film looking. It's presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, as was Kubrick's intention. Removable subtitles are available in English, French or Spanish and are easy to read.

The disc comes in a snapcase packaging (like it's Region 2 alternative) and offers an impressive 40 chapters.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Warner Bros
Not Rated - Region 1 (NTSC)
Extras :
Making Of documentary (with commentary), Trailer