Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Shining Review

The Shining

[1]The Shining, 1980

The Shining is a horror film made in 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson as the father of the family. The film follows a family who go to an isolated hotel for the winter. During their stay, an evil presence in the hotel influences the father (Jack Torrance) to be violent and short tempered. His son Danny however happens to have a special ability to see into the past and the future, this psychic ability enables him to see the fate of him and his family.

[2]Torrance in the Bar, (1980)

The main culprit of the horror in The Shining is the hotel itself, much like the film "The Haunted" by Robert Wise. The house- a huge, isolated Colorado mountain resort hotel called "The Overlook", is given its own ghostly character as it is empty and hosts a haunted presence within. We do not see much of its exterior, but the huge interior is where it holds many different rooms and area's such as kitchens, bars, librarys and most of all the infamous room 237. [1]"The Overlook would undoubtedly amount to one of the screen's scarier haunted houses even without its special feature, a feature that gives "The Shining" its richness and its unexpected intimacy. The Overlook is something far more fearsome than a haunted house--it's a home." (Maslin, 1980). I can easily agree with what is said here by Maslin, The Overlook is not like any other haunted house. Haunted houses are generally portrayed as being very gothic or evil looking and are based far away in a distant, eerie place i.e near a graveyard. The Overlook however is actually a home, a lot of people have to live there for work or because they haven't much choice. Also The Overlook isnt ugly or out of place, inside or outside, the only resemblance it has to your "everyday" haunted house is that it is far away from civilization, but that can be, in most cases, of the more important factors to creating a haunted house.

[3]Jack holding Danny, (1980)
The Shining is a musically driven, suggestive thriller throughout (but more so at the beginning). A lot of the tension is built up through the use of music, mostly the violin and piano, ending with a bump or climax that leads to nothing scary at all. A good example of this is at the end of the scene before we see Danny riding around the hotel. The suspense is built up so much just through the use of music, and ends with a crashing sound with the word "TUESDAY" bursting onto the screen. This concept has its good and bad points, good because it does a good job at gathering tension, bad because it can get a little tedious and disappointing always leading to nothing much. Funnily enough, that particular "Tuesday scene" has become quite a highlight simply because of its epic buildup before it, Janet Maslin from The New York Times states [2]"The Shining" may be the first movie that ever made its audience jump with a title that simply says "Tuesday." (Maslin, 1980)

[4]The Shining blood elevators (Intro), (1980)
The film is quite different in the way it portrays its peculiar nature. From the very start we are presented with a hallway which is being flooded with what looks like blood, literally gallons of it pouring out from a lift down a hall. This is a big statement of what the film is about, strange and peculiar, and also whats to come.[3]"Kubrick deliberately reduced the pace of the narrative and expanded the rather simple plot of a domestic tragedy to over two hours in length" (Dirks, 1980). The Shining is very drawn out, but not in a bad way. The concept is simple but Kubrick manages to elongate the story and does a good job at expressing the ultimate horror film of a man going mad due to many factors over time. Dirks goes on to say that Kubrick "created lush images within the ornate interior of the main set". Again, the first scene is eligible to come under this "lush images" category as the clash of the dull, outdated hallway with the rich red liquid suddenly gushing in is quite immense.

[5]Danny encounters the twins (1980)
Another good feature worth noting is Kubrick's clever use of camera angles and shots to make a normal atmosphere seem uneasy to the audience, these angles are most noticeable in Danny's scenes. In the scene where Danny is riding around the hotel, we (the audience) are put in an almost backseat view, following Danny as he whizzes around on his trike. The shot is done using a Steadicam and it moves side to side, zooms in and out ever so slightly from Danny's back and occasionally tilts to give an unparallelled view. This along with the disturbing synthesized soundtrack (made by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki) creates a very uncanny scene which otherwise wouldn't feel odd at all. It really pins you to your seat as you brace yourself for something to jump out at him, and us.

[6]Jack in the garden maze, (1980)

[4]"This is the story of a man gradually driven to destroy his wife and child, and it stops just short of pinpointing his rage."(Maslin, 1980)

The story is mainly about the haunted house having a bad effect on Mr. Torrance, which drives him mad, but this statement from Maslin does raise a good point along with some questions. Midway through the film we notice that Jack is easily irrirated by his wife Shelley's presence alone, but little do we know whether this is before or after the evil presence leaves its mark in Jack. This can be backed up by how little we know about their marriage, is their relationship a stable one? Do they fall out a lot or are they very happy together?
From what Kubrick does tell us about them it doesn't seem like they are the happiest they could be. Jack is constantly irritated with her and demonstrates this at its peak in the library scene when he is trying to work. Shelley simply comes in to check on him to see if he's alright and innocently offers to bring him something to eat, but this makes Jack livid and all she gets is frustration and curses thrown in her direction. Now, is this because of what the house is doing to Jack, or because she always disturbs him at bad times and "breaks his concentration" a lot?
Another instance which could explain their unstable marriage is the scene in room 237. Danny went in there and came back to his mother saying there was a strange woman in there who tried to do things to him. When Shelley heard this she begged Jack to check the room for this naked woman. Jack goes to the room to find this attractive looking woman in the bath, behind the shower curtain. Instead of interrogating the woman, like most fathers would probably do after what she's done to your son, he allows himself to be drawn into her and is seduced by her beautiful, nude body. This indicates that he is not satisfied with what he is getting (or not getting) in his marriage with Shelley. The only thing that stops him from going any further then a kiss with this woman is that she turns out to be ugly and old. This is another trick the house has played on him to test his commitment, and after seeing the little a fight Jack puts up to resist the woman, uses this against him to convice him of killing his wife and son. Mr and Mrs Torrance's marriage is a listless one, and it is revealed obliquely, so this is a point to take into consideration.

[7] Danny covering his eyes, (1980)

Overall, The Shining is an excellent film. It is similar to other suggestive horrors, but it has more differences of its own which make it unique in those ways.

Illustration List:
[1] Stanley Kubrick (1980), The Shining [electronic print] Available at:

[2] Stanley Kubrick (1980), Torrance in the Bar [electronic print] Available at:

[3] Stanley Kubrick (1980), Jack holding Danny [electronic print] Available at:

[4] Stanley Kubrick (1980), The Shining blood elevators (Intro) [electronic print] Available at:

[5] Stanley Kubrick (1980), Danny encounters the twins [electronic print] Available at:

[6] Stanley Kubrick (1980), Jack in the garden maze [electronic print] Available at:

[7] Stanley Kubrick (1980), Stanley covering his eyes [electronic print] Available at:


[1] Maslin, Janet (May 23, 1980), Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in Kubrick's "The Shining". In: The New York Times [online] Available at:

[2] Maslin, Janet (May 23, 1980), Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in Kubrick's "The Shining". In: The New York Times [online] Available at:

[3] Dirks, Tim. (1980), The Shining (1980). In: Filmsite [online] Available at:

[4] Maslin, Janet (May 23, 1980), Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in Kubrick's "The Shining". In: The New York Times [online] Available at:


  1. "While on this subject I will also give credit to the wonderful pictures of the various black women with afro's which were hung in each and every hotel room. ;)"

    Okay - a bit off-subject admittedly, but those images were fabulous! :D

    Good review, Sean - you've obviously taken your time, thought about it and done all your academic house-keeping. Good!

  2. Sorry, was only trying to include a bit of humor, will keep it to myself next time ;)