The Shining – A masterpiece in Horror, filmmaking and suspense

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic The Shining has stood the test of time for almost 40 years. Kubrick adapted (loosely) from the Stephen King book of the same name. The Shining is my favourite horror film by a long stretch. The film has endured and grown more popular in the years since its release and to this day still has shocking scenes, intense performances and an eery feeling that lasts and stays with you long after you finish watching the film. I got the opportunity to watch it again this Halloween in Omniplex on the big screen for the third time. The opening shot, the Overlook, the typewriter, the maze, the music and visuals on the cinema screen is one of the most amazing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.

The Story

The shining begins with a beautiful shot after shot of Jack driving to the Overlook Hotel. These sweeping shots of the mountains, lakes and beautiful scenery go hand in hand with the ominous theme song. The drive to the hotel shows Jack getting further and further away from society and into the seclusion of the Overlook. Jack has his interview and gets the job as caretaker of the hotel over the winter months when they close down. Jack and his wife Wendy and son Danny are to join him for the months they spent in the Overlook.

When Danny and Dick Halloran (Hotel chef) first meet there is a connection between the two, they both shine. They are able to communicate with each other without speaking. They can also see future events that will happen as is later revealed in the film. The hotel empties and the family of 3 is all that’s left until April the following year. They heat the hotel, explore the maze, eat, drink ( but not at the bar) Jack hasn’t drank in months since his incident with Danny. Jack can be seen to become more estranged from his family and more comfortable in the hotel alone that with his wife and son. Wendy seems more nervous around Jack, Danny explores the hotel, he sees the 2 terrifying twins and unfortunately enters room 237 which Jack later enters in the films most visceral and disturbing scene.

Next comes the confrontation, mind bending twists and turns, spirits, blood elevators, visions, snow storms, REDRUM and the infamous Here’s Johnny axe through the door scene. Jack becomes more and more removed from reality until the final chase through the snowstorm and maze in the hotel. The Shining has been so intensely studied and analyzed with theories varying from the moon landing to the treatment of Native Americans.

Acting

Jack Torrance enjoys a drink in the overlook bar

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance

Nicholson gives a career defining performance in the Shining. He brings an element of charm and comedy to his character who is slowly losing his grip on reality. Torrance is never quite portrayed as a loving father or husband in the film. It seems as if being cut off from society in the Overlook Hotel was just the push from society that he needed to truly get into the swing of his writing career. Nicholson is perfectly cast as man who is battling writers block, cabin fever and a marriage where neither of the couple seem happy, in love and rarely seem to speak what’s honestly on their mind. Nicholson terrifies in the role and watching him I feel his character’s thoughts and descent into madness to be like a car crash where I know the end result will be tragic yet I can’t look away.

Wendy Torrance tries to escape the Overlook Hotel

Shelley Duvall was famously treated very poorly by Stanley Kubrick on the set of the Shining. She began to lose hair and feel mistreated and scared for her life which is seen on her face in every scene of this movie. Duvall gives a career making role which she was nominated for a Razzie nomination for worst actress along with Kubrick for worst director. Duvall brings a real sense fear, loneliness and isolation throughout the movie.

Danny Torrance takes his big wheel through the Overlook

Danny Lloyd gives a fantastic performance as the young Danny Torrance who uses his Shining abilities to see future outcomes and what will happen if they don’t leave the Overlook. Danny appears truly traumatised as he sees the twins in the hallway, after he enters room 237 and during his visions. Lloyd would not go on to star in other films and is immortalised by his role as Danny Torrance

Dick Halloran using his ability to shine to talk with Danny

Scatman Crothers also really shines (cheap pun but I like it) in his role of Dick Halloran the Overlook’s chef. Halloran immediately appears to be a friendly and comforting character, almost the opposite of Jack Torrance. Halloran gives us some exposition around what the Shining is and how it’s used. He later shows up to attempt rescue the Torrance’s.

Filmmaking

The making of the Shining is as iconic and shrouded in as much mystery as the film itself. From Kubrick doing over a hundred takes on scenes, tormenting Shelley Duvall, allegedly writing over 500 pages of all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. The film is a master class in filmmaking. From the sweeping helicopter shots in the beginning to the shots of Danny going through the hotel on his big wheel are unbelievably shot. Kubrick moves the character in these long panning shots where the camera follows the characters through the hotel showing us the size of the hotel, the workers finishing their work and the audience feels instantly immersed. Kubrick’s attention to detail and direction he wanted the film to go in created his finest film.

Final thoughts

The Shining has a grand feeling to it. The film is the godfather of Horror it is the defenition of suspense, tension ambiguous endings and questions. The Shining is one of those films that has stuck with me ever since I first came across it alone one night in my old sitting room. I was around 12 years old, I snuck out of my room to watch TV as I usually did at that age and I turned on Rte 2 one night about 1am the film was 30 or 40 minutes in and I began watching it and becoming more and more invested more terrified more curious. The Shining is almost like being in a dream like state. It feels authentic, surreal, mysterious, haunting, darkly comedic and visually striking. I watch it at least once a year often more than that and I already want to rewatch good ol Jack in his hotel as I talk about it here. If your a horror fan or a film fan the Shining is a must see and must rewatch film with its hidden messages and meanings.

If you are already a fan of the Shining and like myself enjoy a good conspiracy theory I would also have to recommend the documentary room 237 which explores the mysterious room and the shining forwards and backwards an edit of the film from 2011 where you can watch the film from start to finish simultaneously for an even more thrilling and haunting viewing of the film.