When I was twelve years old, my friends and I went to see a comedy called The Nude Bomb (which turned out to be an apt title; it was obvious to everyone in the full auditorium that the movie was a dud) at the Westwood Theater in Houston. For some reason the projectionist decided to run a trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s (somebody I’d never heard of) new movie, and for the next ninety seconds I sat frozen in terror, completely bewildered at what I was seeing.
Keep in mind that this was 1980. I didn’t do horror, or at least I claimed I didn’t. I did like the pathos and tragedy one found in monsters, however. I loved Universal’s pantheon of classic horror movies, as well as the stylized pictures proffered by Hammer, and read the holy trinity of Shelley, Stevenson, and Stoker. That said, outside of episodes of The Twilight Zone, or the occasional movie that ran on one of Houston’s two UHF channels, horror often was the last of my entertainment preferences, for the simple reason that horror during this period meant “slasher.” This was the summer when Friday the 13th would make money bloody hand over gore-spattered fist, when Halloween-style imitators overcrowded theaters. I was a hypersensitive kid who felt horrible for the people being murdered onscreen.
So when this trailer ran, my attitude was no, I was not seeing this. Not now, not ever. I reasoned that I may read the book, because there was no way it could be as scary as the ninety seconds I just saw. (Yeah, I was wrong on that one, too.)
This year, The Shining turns forty. It remains terrifying. It’s also one of my favorite movies in any genre.
Yes, I get why people don’t like it. I understand why some genuinely hate it. While I agree that there are better haunted house movies (Robert Wise’s The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s masterful The Haunting of Hill House, remains unequaled), and while I agree that it jettisons much of its incredible source material (King loathed the movie to the point that he praised the very faithful adaptation on ABC television, a work that is as competent as it is forgettable), I still get lost in Kubrick’s picture, and feel with every viewing that I’ve only begun to wade into its monstrous depths.
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.