Sunday, 16 January 2011


FIG.1 J. Nickolson charicature ( The Shining)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Stanley Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Martin Richards
Cast: Jack Nickolson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Year: 1980

The Shining is a psychological horror film based on Stephen King's novel with the same name. The story takes place in a huge hotel where Jack Torrence, a writer and ex-alcoholic, accepts the job to work as a caretaker along with his family during winter which would be very convenient for him since he needs peace to focus on his writing. The family was enjoying the luxuries of the big mansion when Jack's son, young Danny, with his psychic abilities referred as 'The Shining', started to see horrific forebodings of murders that took place in the hotel. The chef of the hotel instantly recognised Danny's abilities so he ominously warned him to avoid certain places in the hotel like room 237. Soon the spiritual presence of the hotel influences the father who turns to insanity and turns him into a violent monster willing to kill his wife, Wendy and son. 
FIG.2 Danny cycling through the long corridors.
The film is visually stunning, with superb direction featuring great acting, especially by Jack Nickolson. Like in Polanski's Apartment Trilogy, the directory and lighting work of the film brings the mansion into life and transforms it into an actual character ready to haunt anyone's soul. But there is a main difference. Even though Polanski is trying to depict the solitude of insanity of the fragile human mind by using dark claustrophobic environments, Kubrick is choosing an empty hotel with long endless corridors, large ominous windows, spacious kitchens with a lot of knives and massive rooms illuminating with glossy chandeliers. Everything in the hotel alarms danger. The bright luxurious hotel with the help of clever camera techniques, like the chasing, sliding camera, which was once called home is now becoming a greedy monster ready to devour anyone into its emptiness. "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)
FIG.3: The famous scene where Jack is chopping his way
through the bathroom to get Wendy.
The acting is probably the highest standard ever achieved in horror film. Jack Nickolson is successfully bonding with his role as a father who gradually descends into madness-mad enough to kill his own family. His eyes, eyebrows, mouth and rapid hand movements are embracing the viewers attention as the audience is expecting to see the outburst of his tense behaviour. Shelley Duvall on the other hand is playing the role of the archetypical whiny, female victim character. She appears scared and desperate for help but she finally confronts her husband's violent side and manages to save herself and her son from him. Danny Lloyd is the innocent character of the story but the one who confronts all the hallucinations of the hotel's past murders. It looks as if he had two roles: the role of a typical child which is only trying to have fun and the role of the horror viewer, the only person who knew about the haunted side of the hotel.
FIG.4: One of Danny's hallusinations: two young girls dead in
a pond of blood.
The dialogue and the soundtrack also made this film work. There are a a lot of silent moments in the film which give emphasis to the characters' psychological state. The silent scene where Jack was gazing out the window  into emptiness was a sign that he was no longer part of the real world but sunken into the hotel's past which was slowly seeding his mind.
FIG.5: Jack is no longer conscious. 
To sum up,The Shining is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror films to watch. It's capturing and grabs your attention till the end of the story. It's not just a horror film but has hidden true-life horrors of domestic abuse and alcoholic drawbacks in a family. It is a story of a man that failed in his role as a father and a husband and day by day was sinking into madness, leaving his family with no choice but to abandon him.

Janet Maslin (1980) Film Review- The New York Times (accessed on 16/1/2011)
Head Cheese (2004)-Film Review (accessed on 16/1/2011)

List of Illustrations
FIG.1: Jack Nickolson charicature (The Shining) (accessed on 16/1/2011)
FIG.2: Film Still on 16/1/2011)
FIG.3: Film Still (accessed on 16/1/2011)
FIG.4: Film Still (accessed on 16/1/2011)
FIG.5: Film Still (accessed on 16/1/2011)

1 comment:

  1. "It looks as if he had two roles: the role of a typical child which is only trying to have fun and the role of the horror viewer, the only person who knew about the haunted side of the hotel."

    Nice observation!