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‘The Shining’ initially had a terrible reception, being nominated for couple of Razzie Awards, including Worst Director and Worst Actress

Ian Smith

The Shining, a psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. The movie, often referred as a horror masterpiece, has become a staple of pop culture.

Martin Scorcese ranked it one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Critics, scholars, and crew members (such as Kubrick’s producer Jan Harlan) have discussed the film’s enormous influence on popular culture.

In spite of the today recognition of this iconic film, the initial reception of The Shining was rather disappointing.

Theatrical release poster for the The Shining (1980).By Source, Fair use, /Wikipedia

Theatrical release poster for  The Shining (1980).By Source, Fair use, /Wikipedia

The film had a slow start at the box office, but gained momentum, eventually doing well commercially during the summer of 1980 and making Warner Brothers a profit. It opened at first to mixed reviews.

For example, Variety was critical, saying “With everything to work with…Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.” It was the only one of Kubrick’s last nine films to receive no nominations at all from either the Oscars or Golden Globes but was nominated for a pair of Razzie Awards, including Worst Director and Worst Actress (Duvall), in the first year that award was given.

The film's iconic sequence in which Jack places his head on the broken door and says, Here's Johnny Fair use/Wikipedia

The film’s iconic sequence in which Jack places his head on the broken door and says, Here’s Johnny Fair use/Wikipedia

As with most Kubrick films, more recent analyses have treated the film more favorably. A common initial criticism was the slow pacing which was highly atypical of horror films of the time; viewers subsequently decided this contributes to the film’s hypnotic quality. Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 89% “Certified Fresh”.

Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 89% “Certified Fresh”.

The set design for the interior scenes of the Overlook Hotel was modeled in large parts on the Ahwahnee Hotel. By David Berry - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dberry/6342068483/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30432626

The set design for the interior scenes of the Overlook Hotel was modeled in large parts on the Ahwahnee Hotel. By David Berry – FLICKr CC BY 2.0, 

Roger Ebert did not review the film on his television show when first released, and in print complained that it was hard to connect with any of the characters, but in 2006 The Shining made it into Ebert’s series of “Great Movie” reviews, saying “Stanley Kubrick’s cold and frightening The Shining challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust?” It is this elusive open-endedness that makes Kubrick’s film so strangely disturbing.