In every possible sense, Stanley Kubrick gives good space. Each meticulously composed frame of his 1980 horror The Shining is designed to breathe hostility into its location - from his deep focus angles on the impossibly sprawling, sparse office in which struggling writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) loses his marbles, to the iconic steadicam shots following little Danny (Danny Lloyd) down endless corridors.
More literally, Kubrick crafted the most influential portrait of outer space ever in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it's no coincidence that he went back to the same soundtrack well some 12 years later on for The Shining. The remote, snowbound Overlook Hotel might just as well be a spaceship; existing as it does in an impenetrable vacuum that makes either coming or going close to physically impossible, its inhabitants left to stew in their own neuroses.
Re-released in its full, 142-minute form for the first time on this side of the pond, The Shining proves itself genuinely timeless in its terror. Few vintage horror classics are able to escape the 'dated' label, but Kubrick's scant special effects, psychological rigor and relative disinterest in the horror movie genre serve him well. For all of its supernatural elements, this is a story about a doomed family and an alcoholic succumbing to his demons, and it's as compelling and frightening as it's ever been.
Stephen King famously hated Kubrick's adaptation of his novel, and singled out Nicholson's performance for being so over the top that it robbed Jack Torrance of any dimension as a character. It's true that his performance is cranked up to a healthy 6 or 7 on the crazy scale from the outset - even in the introductory job interview, he's plainly set to snap at a moment's notice. But the point isn't to create suspense around the possibility of violent madness, so much as to set it up as an inevitable destination. From the moment Barry Nelson's hotel owner blithely tells Jack about a previous caretaker who slaughtered his family with an axe, we're under no illusions about where this is going.
And so Nicholson's perma-maniacal turn fits right into this sense of predestined doom; his Jack is not an everyman destroyed by circumstance, but a powder keg. The question, and for many viewers the fascination, lies in whether you want to see the predestination as psychological (i.e. he's inherently unstable and predisposed to violence), or supernatural (i.e. he has, as Philip Stone's sinister Grady says, "always been the caretaker at the Overlook" and is compelled to re-enact its violent history).
The moments that remain most terrifying are those that don't actually further the narrative at all in a traditional sense - the blood-gushing elevators, the REDRUM-inscribed door, the dead-eyed twin girls - and that stomach-knotting music. As with 2001, Kubrick ended up largely dropping the electronic-influenced score he had commissioned for The Shining, plumping instead for Eastern European classical music to create a similarly overwhelming sense of alienation; ghostly strings segueing sickeningly into industrial rumbling and whistling drones.
Like the film itself, it's a discordant, disturbing and occasionally bombastic combination that achieves a strange kind of beauty thanks to impeccable construction. Re-cut or not, The Shining remains one of the most viscerally disturbing films ever made.