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The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film
Anthology Sheds New Light on The Shining, 35 Years After the Fact
On May 23rd, 2015, the horror film classic The Shining celebrated the 35th anniversary of its official theatrical release. The film, which stars the great Jack Nicholson in one of his most iconic roles, was adapted from a 1977 Stephen King novel of the same name, and was written, produced, and directed by legendary Hollywood auteur, Stanley Kubrick. Those are three of the biggest names ever in their respective art forms, so it wasn't surprising when The Shining became a venerated classic.
What was surprising was how The Shining became much more than just a scream fest that viewers would revisit around Halloween every year. Unlike films such as Friday the 13th, The Evil Dead, and A Nightmare on Elm Street—all horror film classics that were released between 1980 and 1984—The Shining ignited intense debates about hidden themes and differing interpretations. In a 2012 retrospective piece for The Independent, film critic Jonathan Romney said that The Shining was "all things to all viewers," including "a ghost story, a portrait of mental and familial breakdown, a critique of male violence," and even "an allegory of the malaise of modern America" or "a horror film about horror films." Few films before or since—horror or otherwise—have had so many layers, so much beguiling ambiguity, or such unbridled depth.
The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film, this month's indie groundbreaking book, attempts to peel back the layers, explore the ambiguity, and dig into the depth. The book—edited by film scholar Danel Olson and compiling interviews and essays into a 752-page behemoth—is the most exhaustive anthology to ever explore the many nuances of The Shining. Much of the content has been previously published. There's an interview with Jack Nicholson that appeared in Empire Magazine in 2009, and another talk with Kubrick himself that was first published all the way back in 1981. The scholarly essays are similarly compiled, from trusted film publications or previous books about The Shining and Kubrick. But there's also original content, including a bevy of new cast and crew interviews that provide hitherto unpublished insight into the making of the film.
As a result, The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film should be a real treat for both die-hard Shining scholars and more casual fans of the film. The care that has been taken in putting this book together is evident, from the photos (some of them appearing here for the first time) to the pull quotes, all the way to the attributions and footnotes. Director Lee Unkrich, a Pixar veteran who has worked on most of the animation studio's films (and who directed and won an Oscar for Toy Story 3) even provides an articulate introduction to the book, discussing both Olson's vision for the volume and his own relationship with Kubrick's film.
The essays, as Unkrich explains, were provided by "a range of commentators," including "documentarians, philosophers, scientists, literature critics, film scholars, and fiction writers." Fittingly, given their differing career pursuits and personal perspectives, each writer explores a completely different aspect of The Shining. From the film's merits as an adaptation (or, if you care for Stephen King's unpopular opinion, demerits) to the way in which Kubrick's music choices contribute to the horror, character, and suspense of the piece, these works will surely whet your appetite and encourage you to give The Shining another (closer) viewing. I myself haven't seen the film in almost six years, and I've only watched it once, so I'm playing catch up here. Still, there's value in dissecting a piece of cinema from one of America's greatest and most deliberate directors—even if you haven't watched the film in question recently.
The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film is the seventh in a series of anthologies published by Centipede Press, and the second edited by Danel Olson. Olson's first anthology, The Exorcist: Studies in the Horror Film, was published in 2012. Centipede has also published similar compendiums about Nosferatu, Videodrome, Night of the Living Dead, Carrie, and Salem's Lot. It goes without saying that these books are mammoth undertakings: The Exorcist anthology, for instance, was 560 pages, and this one beats it by almost 200 pages. Olson's maximalist efforts pay off here, though: it's the exhaustive, detailed, and complete nature of the The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film that gives it a chance of becoming the definitive scholarly source on a film widely recognized as one of the greatest of all time.
A concrete publication date for The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film has yet to be set, though Centipede Press expects the book to ship by mid to late June. You can pre-order the book on the Centipede Press website. The paperback addition is currently available for $30 (marked down, temporarily, from a list price of $45), while bundle packages exist for those wishing to purchase the book alongside other entries in the Studies in the Horror Film series.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.