You don’t have to look at a calendar to recognise that it’s Halloween: I don’t know about you, but the trickle of horror reviews and features on my WordPress Reader has become a flood over the last week or so. Any regular readers of ccpopculture know that horror is a regular feature here, but I thought I’d commemorate this blog’s first All Hallow’s Eve with a discussion of (probably) my favourite horror film of all time: Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining.
Instead of a straightforward review, I thought I’d compare the two cuts of this horror icon. For those unaware, the first theatrical release of the film – in the United States – was about half an hour longer than its subsequent release in Europe after Kubrick ruthlessly culled the film of any flab. The running of the US cut is 144 minutes, compared to the lean 113 of the European cut, and a full list of the differences between the films can be found on IMDB.
So which version is superior? For the most part, it’s a matter of personal taste, although the popular choice seems to be the shorter cut. It’s easy to see why, as it’s very hard to point out any of the excised scenes as necessary. Many of the scenes removed are of characters walking from point A to point B, or of Danny and Wendy watching television in silence. The most significant difference between the cuts is the way it emphasises the sense of isolation of the Overlook; these scenes might not add anything to the storyline, but they contribute to an atmosphere conducive to cabin fever. The shorter cut is faster paced, but feels less tethered to the mundane nature of reality (The longer cut also emphasises the theme of Jack’s alcoholism – perhaps overly so).
After some reflection, I have to side with the shorter cut. While I do love the fuller sense of reality that the miscellany of the US cut provides, when I think of why I love The Shining so much, why it has such enduring power, I always return to those ethereal, uncomfortably sinister opening shots, the eerie way the camera glides impossibly and inevitably towards the Overlook. The longer cut may have the resonance of reality, but the European version is the best representation of the operatic wrongness that makes The Shining leave such an indelible imprint on its audience.