Why You Should Be Watching - The Shining 4K Restoration
Consistently voted the greatest horror film of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining arrives just in time for Halloween with a brand-new 4K restoration. For British audiences, this marks the first time that the longer, 144 minute, US cut of the movie has been available domestically, providing the perfect incentive to revisit the Overlook Hotel.
The Shining follows the Torrance family as they move into a remote mountain hotel so that the father, Jack, can maintain the building while it is closed during the harsh Colorado winter. Once the family are isolated, figures from the hotel’s past start to stalk the corridors and ballrooms, pushing Jack to his breaking point. Adapting Stephen King’s novel in a way that famously enraged the author, Kubrick’s version of the story focuses on an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson as a man driven to murderous insanity.
The longer cut of the film until now has been something that UK fans would either have to import or catch at rare screenings as a print toured the country. The vast majority of the new footage comes before the screaming starts, providing a better understanding of the relationships between Jack, his wife Wendy, and their son Danny. Jack’s alcoholism and an incident where he had dislocated Danny’s arm are given greater context, and with this extra knowledge, Wendy’s suspicion of her husband becomes more palpable. The longer cut also features a moment in which Kubrick allows the haunted house aspects of the story fully to take over, as in the midst of the madness Wendy runs through a previously empty corridor to suddenly find it filled with skeleton and cobwebs.
This restoration stems from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, and was supervised by Kubrick’s long-time personal assistant Leon Vitali. Given Kubrick’s pathological attention to the minutiae of each shot, it is perhaps unsurprising that the extra detail granted by 4K creates an even more immersive experience. The early helicopter shots of the mountains around the hotel are breathtaking, and serve to emphasise the remoteness and isolation of the Overlook hotel. Every slight tick and twitch of Nicholson’s performance becomes suddenly more immediate, making his descent into homicidal rage a slower, more drawn-out process, and as a result, far more terrifying. The 4K disc is also presented in Dolby Vision, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) format. This means that, providing you have a Dolby Vision or HDR compatible TV, you will see a larger, more accurate and realistic range of colours, as well as a more dynamic image, with more details visible in dark shadows and brilliant highlights. If you are watching on an OLED display, which has much better control over these highlights and is able to produce much darker blacks, this element of the restoration becomes particularly striking. In one scene, Danny is confronted by the ghosts of two twin girls who had been killed in the hotel. As the camera focuses on his face, the combination of HDR and OLED allows us to see the bright sparkle of the window reflected in the inky depths of his pupils. It is moments like that allow a nearly forty-year-old film appear as if it was made yesterday.
Over the past few decades people have put forward multiple theories as to what The Shining is actually about. Room 237 (currently on Amazon Prime) is a fascinating documentary that highlights the importance of the details that are placed in a film, that many people might usually miss. Using footage from Kubrick’s film, the documentary explores a number of interpretations of The Shining, which vary from the well argued and intriguing (that the film is about the genocide of Native Americans by white settlers) to the absurd (The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s confession that he faked the Apollo 11 footage for the US Government). Each of these commentators has obsessed for years over juddery VHS copies and soft DVDs of the film to try and find the small pieces of background detail that conclusively proves that their (possibly insane) theory is correct. This new 4K restoration makes these once obscured details visible for us all to see, and will surely provide wholly new rabbit holes for certain people to fall down.
Irrespective of the layers of meaning that Kubrick might have hidden in his film, The Shining stands as a pinnacle of horror cinema. You should stop whatever you are doing and watch it immediately. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...
Written by Jake - Oxford Store