The Shining v The Thing

Border shining

They both hate snow. They both hate shaving. They both hate the fact that their respective film titles are not very frightening. They both hate each other – and they’re about to go head to head. Read the arguments and decide which one is scarier. Heeere’s… JOHNNY!! And Ross McG. Oh, and Ross McD as well.

Ross McG: The Shining

I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in

Every second of The Shining is terrifying. And not in that lame ‘someone’s gonna jump out at you’ way, either. Every moment drips with tension and teems with suspense. Breathing normally through this film is not an option. It takes you back to when you were a child watching in fear for the first time. The Thing is a solid genre flick, but The Shining is a masterpiece from a masterful director.

The enduring shot from The Thing is of Kurt Russell staring into an ice box as if he’s torn between a Cornetto and a Tangle Twister. The Shining, on the other hand, has enough iconic imagery to fill 17 movies. After the beautifully scary opening, we get the blood pouring from the elevators, the child careering through the corridors on his tricycle, the ridiculously brilliant maze perspective shot and, of course, Jack Nicholson with an axe to grind.

The Thing has a neat premise (the killer could be anyone) and a super soundtrack but it never rises above B-Movie fare. The Shining is so sure of itself it only needs one on-screen killing. It is a psychological nerve-shredder that reaches into your brain and stays there. It’s a film you think of hours, months and years after you see it. When you inevitably pay a return visit to the Overlook Hotel, the film is still fresh – there’s always something new in it. And that is the genius of Stanley Kubrick: the devil is in the details. Nicholson’s ‘Heeere’s… JOHNNY!!’ outburst is The Shining’s most famous line, yet his simple sentence when he is shown his son Danny’s room (‘Perfect for a child.’) at the beginning of the movie is just as creepy. After my next viewing it might be the noise of Jack Torrance’s typewriter that stays with me as I try in vain to drift off to sleep.

Super Mario Kart had taken a sinister turn

Super Mario Kart had taken a sinister turn

The Shining is a perfect combination of great direction, terrific acting, shuddering music and astonishing set design. All of the hotel’s interiors were built at Elstree Studios and they are amazing – from the brown and orange carpet to the blood red bathrooms. The sets undoubtedly helped the actors get into gear, and the leading three give the performances they will be remembered for. Danny Lloyd comes up with perhaps the finest piece of child acting ever – watching him talking to his thumb will have you sucking yours in fright. Shelley Duvall is perfectly cast as Wendy ‘Hi Hon’ Torrance, whose cheery demeanour helps push her husband over the edge. Kubrick picked her as he wanted the audience to be complicit in Jack’s spiral into oblivion – at times we understand why he is so testy with her, making for a better drama.

And then there is Nicholson. Forget the Oscars he won for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms Of Endearment and As Good As It Gets, Jack Torrance is his signature role. We are with him every step of the way through his journey from uptight writer to full-blown axe-wielding nursery ryhme-spouting homicidal maniac. It’s a performance pitched just the right side of ridiculous.

The Shining stands the test of time. It is frightening on every occasion that you are brave enough to watch it. It is unlike any film I have ever seen and retains its power to terrify me in every viewing. The Thing relies on jumpy moments, and while that does not make it a bad movie, it prevents it from entering The Shining’s class.


Ross McD: The Thing

Yeah, **** you too!

Seriously, where would you rather stay? The picturesque Overlook Hotel, or a God-forsaken research base somewhere in the middle of Antarctica? So the Overlook gets a little snow. Antarctica is made of snow! So there’s a few freaky kids wandering around. Did they bite anyone’s arms off? No. So there’s an alcoholic who’s moany over his writer’s block. Is he a rampaging flesh-eating doppelganger alien? No.

Jack Torrance can be dealt with using a baseball bat and/or some slightly chilly weather. If you step up against John Carpenter’s beast, you’d better have a flamethrower, a sh*tload of dynamite and a chainmail beard.

ugly thing

Goldie Hawn went one plastic surgery too far...

The Shining is scary in parts, just like all those documentaries about sh*tty hotels. Oh, they didn’t change the bedclothes. The maids steal your money. The winter caretaker is a little deranged. It’s a consumer advice programme – don’t stay here: two stars out of five, max.

The Shining is predictable. There’s more or less just three characters in it, and we always know which one of them is going to end up the bad guy. Jack Nicholson does what Jack Nicholson does best, and that’s play Jack Nicholson. While fun to watch, you get the feeling that he’s not even trying any more, he’s just doing his crazy bit, as if his mom makes him do it at every party they go to. Hell, we’d just seen Crazy Jack in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and this film could pretty much be a sequel. Not that anyone can blame him for going mad this time round, what with being married to head-melter Shelley Duvall.

This is where The Thing takes The Shining to school. Possessing the ability to don the appearance of its victims, we never know who the baddy is. The audience is kept in the dark along with the characters, and the tension is palpable. Even when the creature reveals itself, the nature of the beast means we are left guessing after every attack. As the film progresses, we see the main enemy shift from being the alien to each man’s paranoia, and the audience is just as distrusting as each of the dwindling survivors. As they begin to turn on each other, the cabin fever becomes scarier than Rob Bottin’s revolting creature. Nowhere is it more evident than the superb blood test scene (the test so effective, it has become the standard in sourcing infections).

It’s not long before the audience joins the protagonists in their increasingly hysteric thoughts. At one stage one of the characters determines the danger the alien poses to humanity should it escape, and destroys transport and communication equipment. We hate him for it, yet his course of action was completely logical.

And what a creature it is. It is easily one of cinema’s most horrific creations, and gives rise to some truly terrifying jump moments interspersed throughout the continuous tension. The resuscitation scene anyone? Je. Sus. Christ. I, like the medic, did not see that coming. As for the head making a run for it, that’s just gross. But the sickest thing the monster does is tricking the crew into adopting it by taking on the form of a cute dog – that is preying on humanity at its weakest.

PS. Best. Ending. Ever.

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13 Responses to “The Shining v The Thing”

  1. Paul Butler Says:

    The Thing.
    Hands down.

    Sorry, but The Shining doesn’t hold up. Show both films to people today who have never seen either, and The Thing will always win.

    And The Shining has some damn sloppy storytelling in it. It wastes a ton of time following Scatman’s character trying to get up into the mountains only for him to meet his fate as soon as he walks in the door. After he’s taught the kid about “the shining” his role is done. There’s no narrative point in spending all that time with him later.

  2. Cinerama Says:

    Good argument, lads!

    I was going to get into the pros and cons of each, but you did that yourselves. I, officially, have nothing to bring to the table.

    Apart from the fact that I never thought The Shining was scary. Ever. To my shame, I only saw The Thing about 18 months ago and I was on the edge of my seat. I was blown away by the special effects – no CGI shit here – and the Special Effects guy was only 24!!!!!!!!!

    To Paul Butler: I get what you’re saying about Scatman’s character having no narrative point. But I thought that was funny. He traveled all that way only to be killed the moment he arrives? Brilliant. It also creates an atmosphere of hopelessness – this guy was their one chance of escape… and he’s dead!

  3. fandangogroovers Says:

    Impossible to compare to very different films. The Shining is a visual treat with the clashing colours and bold colours providing a disturbing backdrop (similar to what Hitchcock did in Vertigo) and the mesmerising use of steadycamp. This is a film designed to knock you off guard by assaulting your senses. The juxtaposing of the mundane and the fantastic is perfect. The Thing works by building up huge tension then letting it out in huge brutal violence. I love them both but The Shining is my favourite of the two.

  4. well, based on the reviews, McG sells the better case for Shining. But come on, let’s be honest…The THing is a masterpiece. the SHining is as overrated as Jean Pitney

  5. Well McD I think your getting the shitty end of the stick as regards movies choices. Sure The Thing is a gripping gore fest that will have you spluttering your popcorn all over yourself. Making you wonder if you really should trust your neighbours husky is not going to change into Jennifer Lopez after she discovers her all white room has actually been painted cream. Its a great film, no doubt about it, but what are the chances that an ancient alien life form is going to infect your family/friends at your isolated Leitrim (about as unpopulated a place in Ireland I can think of) holiday home and make you turn against each each other is remote at best. Take out the alien life form and you just have another Christmas dinner. Therein lies the beauty of The Shining, what have we got that any household would have, axe check, annoying wife check, husband on the edge check, child with deep psychological problems or as TV’s psychic Derek Acorah would have you believe “gift” check. Thats what makes it so terrifying. We are all, but a hairs breath away from melt down. You win again McG. Only by default though.

  6. Personally I didn’t find the Shinning scary, the other than Jack Nickelsons excellebnt performance I wouldn’t be that quick to recomment this film

    The thing is a masterpiece, the tension in that blood test scene in incredible because absolutely any one of them could be the bad guy

  7. Jordana Says:

    I can’t decide, I love them both soooooo much!

  8. SCSIGirl Says:

    I loved them both….The Shining kind of disappointed me because I had already read the book, and there are a few creative differences that changed the movie’s ending….but hummana hummana hummana for Kurt Russell…..suavecito!!!

  9. Just noticed McG your cartoon character bears a striking resemblance to Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny”. Unfortunately Mcd you look nothing like Kurt Russell.

  10. Ross McD talk absloute bull i swear I love Stephan Kings books and movie seriously I think the book is better but saying it’s worse than The Thing just say you a kid and you think Action Man (The Shining) is better than Barbie (The Thing) Action man will always win unless you like playing with the kid with lice (who is also The Thing) HERE’S JOHNY is still used today your like the devil to movies if you think The Thing is better. The best part in The Shining was where he chases after his son in the hedge maze and froze to death absloute movie magic right there

  11. It depends on what sort of horror you prefer. Do you mostly watch it hoping to find that one movie that creeps the hell out of you? Or do you watch it mostly to have a terribly good time? The Shining can be the former. The Thing is without a doubt one of the best if the latter is your preference.

    The Shining–and I confess to being a shameless Kubrick whore–is the movie I’d choose if someone asked me which one of these two would I not want a child to see. The Thing might give him an uneasy night or two, but The Shining can stay with you for the long haul.

    Assuming both are seen in a movie hall, of course. On DVD at home they’ll lose a lot of their number one tool: atmosphere.

  12. General Griervous Says:

    The shining is one of the few horror movies that is truely horrifying because of the atmosphere it creates, it doesn’t rely on loud noises to break the tension (which is usually just a high pitched violin note and a main character moving slowly) and create a comic outlet when people laugh at their reaction. It’s the sign of a good filmmaker eg the Omen. I like the opening scene, it’s a little Koyaanisqatsi-ish for me though!

  13. Tough call, but I gotta go with The Thing. One of the best horror monsters of all time, Kurt Russel is the f**kin’ man, and John Carpenter in his heyday. Still one of the best horror movies of all time, but so was The Shining. Eh, considering that the special effects in The Thing are better today than most horror movies that have come out in recent memory, it gets the win.

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