This is a cosmically weird and very loose adaptation of the Stephen King short story. You can tell it's a short story because there's about twenty minutes of plot here - Jack Nick and his family move into a huge hotel for six months and he goes mad and tries to kill them with an axe. Nothing complex there, but trust Stanley Kubrick to squeeze two hours out of it, weaving a maelstrom of mood in his inhumanly anemic way.
Indeed, in many ways it's the perfect horror film in that it scares you by making you think about what's happening, but doesn't really make you feel anything. Chief among his methods is to use the spacious settings, which he gives their splendid due in his generous frame, as a counterpoint to allow his few actors (particularly the hugely entertaining Nicholson, in one film sealing his reputation as a professional psychotic) free rein to improvise their cascading insanity.
Other tactics include the relentless use of the Steadicam to present the horror cleanly and efficiently, showing us the madman's inner demons as if they were our very own. In response to this, Shelley Duvall is, frankly, too hysterical, but she still manages to evoke some sympathy in contrast to Jack's charismatic evil, especially as he looks ready to punch her at any moment, even before he gets possessed.
Young Danny Lloyd is impressive, too, in a tricky key role, where a mere child is required to produce emotions of a sheer terror he should never have to experience. Still, it's Jack's movie all the way (some achievement in a Stanley Kubrick film) and his extremely watchable descent into madness colours what might otherwise have been a rather bland and clinical horror movie.