Somehow I had managed to blag a copy of Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining from my friend’s mum. This was during a period in my early teens when I had something of an obsession with Stephen King.
It has to be said that 30 or 40 of rowdy, sarcastic, teenage boys combined with a tiny television and scratchy VHS is hardly the viewing experience Mr Kubrick likely had in mind for his epic horror, but is precisely the reason it counts as my scariest movie moment.
From start to finish I was transfixed and, frankly, terrified by what I saw and heard. Wendy Carlos’ creepy electronic take on classical music combined with the sound of screaming over the opening titles. Danny’s tricycle, alternately running across wooden floors and carpet, the twins, the maze, snow, ‘Heeeeeerrreee’s Johnny!’.
The scares in the film come thick and fast, even though Kubrick rarely relies on cheap ‘BOO’ moments or gore. The overall effect, despite the hysterical central performance, is rather more subtle than that. It’s a film that is all about atmosphere and raising questions in the mind of the viewer – Is this happening? Are the ghosts real? Is Jack simply losing his grip on sanity?
I suspect that, for many people, their scariest movie experience is one of their first. In fact, during this period, I watched a lot of horror films, many of which I found scary. I can clearly remember the first time I saw The Exorcist, The Omen and Friday 13th. All enjoyable films which achieved their aim to scare, for me at least.
I still enjoy these films today and they all figure in my DVD collection. Despite this The Shining is the one that stands supreme. In part, it’s the quality of the filmmaking – rarely has a true horror film looked so good. But it goes beyond that. If I want a nostalgia trip, I will happily pop The Thing in the DVD, it’s a classic and great fun. However, like most scary movies its effect dulls with repeated viewings.
Whisper it… The Shining still creeps me out today. It’s partly because of my early memories, of course, but it goes beyond that. Every time I see it I appreciate greater depths, notice new subtleties and allow it to get under my skin. In fact, as I hurtle towards middle age I can honestly say I still question what’s it’s all about, and consider that a good thing.
My scariest movie moment. One of the scariest movies ever? Probably.
What horror movie scarred you for life, stuck with you through your formative years, or opened your eyes to the possibilities of the genre? Let us know and you could win some amazing Halloween goodies!