Haunted Reviews: The Shining, The Omen, The Excorcist

Three iconic horror films premiered at Austin Film Society to honor the Halloween season. ACCENT writer Julian Lewis, joins the historic Austin theater in revisiting these spooky classics.

By Julian Lewis

This article was featured in the Fall 2023 issue of ACCENT Magazine.

Austin Film Society (AFS) is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas, dedicated to supporting and promoting the art of filmmaking.  It was founded in 1985 by local filmmaker Richard Linklater, along with several other film enthusiasts – today, the organization plays a vital role in Austin’s vibrant film community.

One facet of AFS operations is the AFS Cinema, an arthouse theater within walking distance of Austin Community College’s Highland Campus. The cinema screens a diverse selection of films curated by what many consider the best buffs in the business.  From classic and independent films to international and avant-garde works, the theater offers a celluloid cornucopia with something for every cinephile to enjoy. 

During the month of October, I attended showings of classic horror films that I had yet to see on the silver screen: The Shining, The Omen, and The Exorcist. Here are my thoughts.


Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining is a classic psychological horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick.  The story revolves around the Torrance family whose patriarch, Jack Torrance, takes a job as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in hopes that solitude and seclusion will inspire his writing.  After moving his wife Wendy – brought to life by the enigmatic Shelley Duvall – and young son Danny into the hotel, winter sets in, and Jack and his family become cut off from the outside world.  

The hotel’s haunted past begins manifesting itself in increasingly strange and disturbing ways as the Torrances settle into their new surroundings.  Danny – who possesses an extraordinary psychic ability known as “shining” – is tormented by horrific visions while his father’s mental state deteriorates and his mother struggles to keep their family from falling apart.

The score sounds like elevator music plummeting to hell and combined with Kubrick’s notoriously meticulous direction and Jack Nicholson’s consummate performance as Jack Torrance the result is a masterpiece of suspense and terror.  The Overlook itself becomes a central character as the dormant evil it possesses awakens and pulls viewers into the depths of madness.  The Shining is one of the best films the horror genre has to offer; its enduring impact on cinema and popular culture is testament to its greatness.


Directed by Richard Donner and released in 1976, The Omen is every parent’s worst nightmare made flesh.

Gregory Peck stars as Robert Thorn, an American diplomat living in Rome with his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick).  The story begins with Robert arriving at a Catholic hospital where Katherine has just given birth to a stillborn baby.  She has not been informed the baby is dead, and a priest suggests that Robert adopt an orphaned infant to pass off as his own child so as to spare Katherine great suffering.  Robert hesitates at first but begrudgingly heeds the advice because he and his wife have tried desperately to start a family.  He presents Katherine with the baby, and they name him Damien.

Bizarre and sinister events unfold around Damien as he grows older, and Robert undertakes solving the mystery of his son’s true nature.  He ultimately unearths a bloodcurdling secret: Damien may be the Antichrist.

Replete with hell hounds and nannies in Satan’s service, this is a masterfully crafted film that has deservedly earned its place in the pantheon of classic horror movies. Its slow burn and thought-provoking themes make it essential viewing for old-school -horror junkies. If you enjoy depictions of foggy graveyards and slow-motion decapitations, The Omen is sure to delight.


Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name and directed by the late William Friedkin, The Exorcist is not a film for the faint of heart.   Ever since its release in 1973, the movie has sparked controversy as it contains one of the most disturbing sequences in cinematic history.  

The story follows the harrowing ordeal of a young girl, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) who becomes inexplicably and violently possessed by a demonic entity.  When the girl’s behavior turns erratic and dangerous, her mother, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), desperately seeks the help of two priests, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) and Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). Together, they attempt to exorcize the malevolent force wreaking havoc on the girl’s body and soul.

The film explores the universal themes of faith, doubt, and the battle between good and evil. The practical effects used to depict Regan’s transformation and possession were groundbreaking for their time and still hold up well today, contributing to the film’s terrifying realism – cue the head-spinning and projectile vomiting.

The Exorcist is genuinely scary and remains a benchmark for what truly terrifying cinema can achieve.  If you feel compelled to watch it alone in the dark, I recommend having a crucifix in hand, you know, just in case.

*DISCLAIMER: The opinions, ideas, and beliefs that are expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of ACCENT Student Media or Austin Community College as a whole.