The Shining (1980) marks an interesting spot in Stanley Kubrick's filmography, one that hardly anyone ever mentions. Most Kubrick films are not appreciated in their own time, but while Barry Lyndon (1975) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) are beginning to enjoy a newfound critical reputation, The Shining -- stuck right between them -- is generally left out of the discussion. Despite mixed reviews (recommendations from Andrew Sarris and the New York Times, but pans from Pauline Kael, Stanley Kaufmann, Dave Kehr and Variety), it was a hit film, grossing $44 million on a $19 million budget (according to boxofficemojo.com). It was based on a young, successful horror writer's third novel, and thus it hardly warranted serious consideration. Only David Thomson, in his "Biographical Dictionary of Film," gives the film a once-over; in an otherwise negative essay about Kubrick, he calls The Shining Kubrick's "one great film," but he also calls it "very funny."
At the same time, horror fanatics find the film extraordinary; and by all counts, they're right. Here was a horror entry from a first-class filmmaker who had succeeded in escaping the "horror" classification. Our other masters -- Bava, Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Craven, etc. -- started in horror and got stuck there, unable to express their artistry in any other medium, and unable to earn the acclaim of someone like Kubrick. He visited, left unscathed and left behind something truly exceptional. But where do these two sides meet? What did Kubrick bring to horror and what did horror bring to Kubrick?