Best Movie Trailer of All Time: The Shining

We’ve been having a Stephen King revival at my house lately. My oldest child is an avid reader who recently discovered Stephen King’s short horror stories from the 1970s, and then devoured The Shining within a couple of days. His enthusiasm was contagious, so as we did for Harry Potter, the Hunger Games series, and several other book series, he and I have been reading in parallel. Right now he’s on Night Shift and I restarted The Shining for the umpteenth time.

I also found the edited-for-TV version of The Shining for us to watch together. This is one of those “I will always watch this movie when it’s on” movies for me, and it continues to get better as I learn more about the film and the people behind it: themes of alcoholism and bad parenting, King’s battle with addiction through the 70s and 80s, Kubrick’s techniques of long, uninterrupted shots filmed from behind the actor so we see as they see and move as they move, and the terrifying musical and sound score.

What makes the trailer so brilliant is the severe minimalism of the long shot, drawn out over almost two minutes. It’s almost perfectly symmetrical, representative of the mise-en-scene of the Overlook Hotel’s long halls and empty room. Like the Overlook, it is quite claustrophobic to experience. The tension is built with the unwavering shot, the cacophonic strings, and the continuous scroll of credits. Then. Then! The credits end, the strings come to crescendo, and the elevators overflow with blood, splashing a decadent, evil amount of blood across the floors and up the walls, filling the shot at an alarming rate. As a viewer, my reactions went from minor shock and amusement to, well, horror. I mean, that’s a lot of blood. If you’ve seen the movie, you know this scene is in the movie at the apex of madness, during the murder of Halloran. It deftly symbolizes the narrative purge of the Overlook Hotel’s supernatural forces with remarkable restraint.

I get while Kubrick is one of the greats, but I’ve never been a huge fan of his work as a total — misogynist and pretentious. The Shining is no exception to this, but it’s still thrilling to watch some thirty years later. Maybe the pretension is balanced by the low art of being a horror flick.

My mom says that she can never look down a hotel hallway without seeing scenes from this movie, particularly the two little girls in the title photo. I’m going to show her this trailer and see what she thinks about elevators.

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