Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Space Oddities: The Shining (1980) Film Review

Fig 1: Film poster

Much like the movie’s tag line suggests: “A masterpiece of modern horror”, Stanley Kubricks “The Shining” (1980) is seen as a recognisable, favourable and iconic piece  of work, from it’s release to the present day. 

Fig 2: Danny playing on the carpet

  A combination of horror and physiological torment, “The Shining” (1980) presents the adaption of the original novel (of the same name) written by Stephen King. However, the film does not stick closely to the plot of the book at all; elements are added and taken away – for example, Room 237 was originally Room 217 in the novel and there was no sign of a maze in the original storyline. As Roger Ebert explains, Kubrick dumped many plot elements and adapted the rest to his uses” (Ebert, 2006), Kubrick had an almost selfish way of creating the film. In addition to this, Ian Nathan goes on to elaborate: “Ditching its more formulaic horror elements in favour of a study in madness and ambiguous evil” (Nathan, 2012) the appearance of madness definitely overshadows that of horror.

Fig 3: Wendy

 Even with the actors, they were rumoured to be put through exhausting takes after takes of one scene – one such example is of Shelley Duvall, who was cast as Wendy Torrance (seen above in Fig 3), had to go through over 100 takes of one scene, forcefully done by Kubrick. Brutal in his methods, the frustration and anger showed in the actors’ portrayals and acting on screen.

Figs 4, 5 and 6: Three modern characters influenced by The Shining

Some observations can be made with the main characters to characters from other films and even video  games.
   Beginning with Jack, it can be thought his insane side, frequent uncomfortable grinning and even hairstyle relates closely to a character from the video game “Grand Theft Auto V” (2013) – Trevor Phillips, seen in Fig 4. Trevor is also quite mad, indulges in murder and has a sinister grin. Another personality trait in Jack is seen in the murderous doll that is the antagonist of the “Childs Play”(1988 – present) franchise : Chucky, seen in Fig 6.Yet even more so, the attire and height of the Chucky doll closely resembles Danny. The strange, non-childlike traits seep through Dannys character. Finally, the menacing puppet derived from the “Saw” (2004 – 2010)movies, Billy the Puppet (seen in Fig 5), who is iconic for being on a tricycle, can be seen to relate to Danny who also rides around on a tricycle. A puppet is seen to be aimed for children, and Billy is also of Dannys height. Another movie antagonist is seen to be inspired by one of the characters of “The Shining” (1980).

A key asset of this film is the use of music. From the very beginning the audience are presented with loud, off key uneasy music that creates a spooky and tense vibe. This theme is kept up throughout the film, and the addition of Kubricks iconic one point perspective camera shots, extreme close ups of the face and slow motion moving camera adds to the gripping effect. A notable factor are a few scenes where a close up of a characters face fades to an object that lines up with the features of the face. This symbolism links up the scenery with it’s characters; the film to it’s storyline.

Fig 7: Heeeere's Johnny!

“The Shining” (1980) begins with a relatively normal setting; a family on a journey to stay in an isolated hotel for Jacks work. Jack is told a story of a father who murdered his family and then committed suicide – a subliminal warning to Jack, who laughs it off and assures his new boss that it certainly won’t happen to him. As the film progresses, the audience can notice change between all three family members: Jack pushes away his wife from his life and becomes easily agitated, Danny has horrible visions and becomes much quieter and plays with his toys less, and Wendy becomes more and more frazzled and fearful of her husband.
   Danny frequently sees two twin girls who want to “play” with him, and an interesting scene is where the girls flicker from standing together to on the floor, dead, and covered in blood. Jack has nightmares and hallucinations that spiral him into further madness and eventually loses his mind and attempts to kill his own family. The “cabin fever” has overtaken him; Jack hacks down the hotel doors and sticks his head through, grins and states “Here’s Johnny!” (Fig 7). Another interesting scene is the 1920’s party sequence, in which Jack talks to Charles Grady, the previous caretaker who developed cabin fever. An intense talk in which Grady states his family needed to be “corrected” inspired Jack to become shrouded in even more madness.
    In the end, it is felt that the curse, or endless looping of cabin fever and essence of the hotel is broken with Wendy and Danny escaping with their lives, and Jack freezing to death in the maze in an attempt to kill Danny.

Fig 8: The blood bathed elevator scene

Colour and setting bumps up the tense vibe of the film. Seen here in Fig 8, this scene of an elevator floor gushing a sea of blood is known to symbolise the blood of the murdered victims. The colour red is shown heavily throughout - from these doors, to the long bathroom scene, to death and gory scenes. Red is associated with many emotions, but in this instance, red symbolises death, danger, adrenaline, "seeing red" (in relation to Jack with his angry outbursts), the red lipstick used when Danny spells out "Redrum" on the hotel door (which shown in the mirror is read backwards to spell "murder") and blood.

Eric Henderson sums up the experience of “The Shining” (1980) : “It's the experience more so than the actual content of The Shining that radiates cold, anti-humanly indifferent terror. (Henderson,  2007).

Truly an iconic film that is an addition to Kubricks distinct directing style, many across the world are familiar with “The Shining” (1980) and its mark on cinema history. For those who have yet to see it, you’re in for an experience to remember.


Ebert, R. (2006) Rogerebert.com (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-shining-1980
Henderson, E. (2007) Slant Magazine (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/the-shining
Nathan, I. (2012) Empire Online (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://www.empireonline.com/movies/shining-2/review/

Illustration List

Fig 1: "Film poster" (Accessed on 24/11/2015)
Fig 2: "Danny playing on the carpet" (Accessed on 24/11/2015) https://i.ytimg.com/vi/32A7bTalgAE/maxresdefault.jpg
Fig 3: "Wendy" (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://tailslate.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/the-shining-shelly-duvall-3.jpeg
Fig 4,5 and 6: "Three modern characters inspired by The Shining" (Accessed on 24/11/2015) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/da/Trevor_Philips.Grand_Theft_Auto_V.jpg
Fig 7: "Heeeere's Johnny!" (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://www.norvillerogers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/the_shining_2.png
Fig 8:  "The blood bathed elevator scene" (Accessed on 24/11/2015) http://idyllopuspress.com/idyllopus/film/images/shining/sh_elevatorfromwendysview.jpg

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and well-written read Manisha :)
    Don't forget to make sure that all of your quotes are italicised - the last one seems to have slipped through the net...