Film Review: Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' (1980)

Figure 1. The Shining Movie Poster
Based on Stephen King’s novel titled the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980) is one of those unforgettable horror thriller movies that never ceases to impress each generation it is displayed to. The visual effects and the immense performances are what make this film such a success. The consistent eerie-ness about the feature stimulates our minds to ask so many questions, such as the how, the who, and the why, a technique that continues throughout Kubrick’s films.

The production value of the film is certainly rather memorable for enhancing the film’s intention of maintaining discomfort and suspense. As Peter Bradshaw states, “Instead of the cramped darkness and panicky quick editing of the standard-issue scary movie, Kubrick gives us the eerie, colossal, brilliantly lit spaces of the Overlook Hotel (created in Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire), shot with amplitude and calm.” (Bradshaw, 2012). With it’s overly glossy walls and that ghastly geometric carpet, the Overlook Hotel doesn’t feel welcoming, but rather it feels too clinical, and despite it’s colossal size, a sense of claustrophobia is portrayed in some scenes. Sometimes this was achieved through Kubrick’s favoured technique of the steady camera shot. The camera tended to remain too close to the character, thus achieving an understanding of how they are feeling and thinking by being within their personal space.

Figure 2. 'Wendy terrified of Jack's Advances'

Although we may not be able to delve too deep into our character’s back stories and behaviours, we can somewhat gather that this family isn’t as close-knit as we would want them to be. There’s little to no emotion in their interactions with each other (prior to the mad events) which is another notable feature with Kubrick’s methods of directing. That unsettling atmosphere identifies the fact that there’s no love there, essentially, some viewers have speculated that there is a potential abusive relationship going on between the family, the root of it being Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance. As Roger Ebert stated, “Jack is an alcoholic and child abuser who has reportedly not had a drink for five months but is anything but a "recovering alcoholic.”” (Ebert, 2006). It is therefore noted that the character, Jack, is quite violent, this being realised within the scenes of whenever he enters the ‘Gold Room’ and hallucinates into thinking he is having a drink with the bartender. But it’s not just Jack that is imagining these strange illusions, it is all three characters that slowly become delusional from the suffocating atmosphere of the Overlook Hotel.

Figure 3. 'Jack peering through the smashed door'

Not only do the character’s spiral down towards madness, but it is lightly suggested that The Overlook Hotel is haunted, hence why Danny, the son of both Wendy and Jack, experiences these terrifying disturbances and visions. Whether the paranormal activities are causing the characters to lose their minds or not, we are unsure, but we can see that something that was essentially somewhat buried within Jack Torrence has been awakened. As Ian Nathan observed, “Grady, the previous caretaker, a man driven to slaughter his family (the source of Danny's disturbing second sight of the blue-dressed sisters) is another of Torrance's visitation states — "You have always been the caretaker," Grady suggests menacingly.” (Nathan, N/A). Looking at the fact that Jack has envisioned this malicious murdering caretaker is clue enough to the fact that Jack could also be potentially dangerous. Suggesting that Jack has ‘always been the caretaker’ foreshadows that he will do the same as the previous caretaker had done to his own family; murder them. Or, at least attempt to. And so leads up to the big event of the film where Jack chases both Danny and Wendy throughout the Overlook Hotel in an attempt to kill them, screaming the classic quote, “Here’s Johnny!”. Luckily, it doesn’t have such a bitter ending. But instead, a twist is included.

Figure 4. 'Jack frozen with a menacing expression'

As Danny and Wendy escape from the frozen prison, Jack, suffering a blow to the head earlier in the film, is trapped within the maze just outside of the hotel, to which he then collapses into the snow. The film then cuts to Jack’s face the next day, frozen from the blizzard in a menacing expression, his gaze staring up at us as if to emphasise the madness within. We are then brought to a photograph hanging on the wall inside the hotel. As we zoom in closer with each frame, our attention is then brought to a man. This man bared and extreme resemblance to Jack himself, but the confusing element lies with the fact that the photograph was taken within the 1920’s. Could this be the fact that Grady was suggesting? Was Jack the caretaker in a previous life? Or was it the poltergeist of the Overlook Hotel that possessed him to consider committing such crimes? Although the ending is unclear, it certainly leaves a chill within the atmosphere. 

Bibliography:

Bradshaw, P. (2012) ‘The Shining - review’ (01.11.12) In: http://www.theguardian.com/ (2012) [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/nov/01/the-shining-review (Accessed on 16.12.14)

Ebert, R. (2006) ‘GREAT MOVIE - The Shining’ (18.06.06) In: http://www.rogerebert.com/ (2006) [Online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-shining-1980 (Accessed on 16.12.14)


Nathan, I. (N/A) ‘The Shining - 'Heeeere's Johnny!!!!!’' (N/A) In: http://www.empireonline.com/ (N/A) [Online] At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132700 (Accessed on 16.12.14)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. 'The Shining Movie Poster' (1980) [Poster] At: http://www.impawards.com/1980/shining_ver1_xlg.html (Accessed on 16.12.14)

Figure 2. 'Wendy terrified of Jack's Advances' (1980) [Movie Still] At: http://cdn.bloody-disgusting.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Shining-the-shining-25586158-1024-576.jpg (Accessed on 16.12.14)

Figure 3. 'Jack peering through the smashed door' (1980) [Movie Still] At: http://mentalfloss.com/sites/default/files/shining_0.jpg (Accessed on 16.12.14)

Figure 4. 'Jack frozen with a menacing expression' (1980) [Movie Still] At: http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140512045133/stephenking/images/e/e4/710.jpg (Accessed on 16.12.14)

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