Monday, 7 December 2015

Film Review - The Shining

The Shining (1980) is a horror film masterpiece. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the movie is about how the inner depths can exist in a trouble mind. Although it is one of the most admire horror films in the cinema history, Stephen King, the author, hates it, describing the film as “maddening, perverse and disappointing”.

Figure 1

The story begins when Jack Torrance is hired to handle the facilities of the Overlook hotel, which is situated on an isolated mountain in Colorado, during the winter months as in this period the hotel is closed because of the snow storms. The hotel manager warns Jack that the previous care taker hotel had lost his mind and killed his wife and his daughters before killing himself. This does not impress Jack and he decides to move to this hotel with Wendy (his wife) and Danny (his son). Danny is a 7-year-old boy that has a strange power of premonition called “the shining”, so that he can see past episodes he has not lived and he can also anticipate future situations.

Figure 2

Jack is a writer and his main objective is to find calm and peace to write a novel. Nevertheless, after living there during a month, Jack begins to suffer disturbing personality disorders while some mysterious and paranormal phenomena happen in the hotel rooms. All this will make Jack get immersed in a series of surreal hallucinations that are going to transform him into a psychopath. Danny will know all the criminal situations that Jack has in mind.

The film ends with Jack chasing Danny into the labyrinth. But Danny knows how to go out of the maze and he escapes with his mother. And Jack ends up dying frozen inside the maze.
The Shining is based on a Stephen King novel but the novel and the film are quite different in many things. Apart of the disturbing narrative with which the film is told, the power of the image was its best feature. The oppressive atmosphere makes this film being one of the most shocking horror films. The difference between all the horror films and The Shining is that in The Shining dark settings are not used to cause fear and tension. The psychological terror is the main cause of the viewer’s fear.

In addition, the exceptional performance of Jack Nicholson, as Jack Torrance, with his psychotic looks and gestures, Danny Lloyd, as Danny Torrance, being the quiet boy with paranormal worlds, and Shelley Duvall, as Wendy Torrance, being the frightened and hysterical mother, makes the viewer be even more immersed in the film.

Figure 3

But the most important characteristic in this film is the innovative camera movement because of the wide angles and the use of the steady cam. The steady cam movement can be seen in scenes like the one where Danny is riding his tricycle in the hotel, and the chase in the maze. These shots transmit a lot of tension. Kubrick even got Garrett Brown to operate the steady cam for the film, which was an honor and a major education for Brown, being him the steady cam inventor. “I would have been happy to be on any of his movies,” Brown says. “Stanley moved the camera well and purposely. The Shining was an opportunity to bear down on technique that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That’s where I really learned to control the damn thing.”

Figure 4
There are also shots that transmit certain serenity such as the air shot in which the film begins and the shots in the luxury hotel rooms. But all this calm is changed with the uncontrolled psychic Jack. All these types of shots cause a lot of tension and suspense during this nearly two-hour long movie.

Finally, as the L.A. Times wrote twenty-five years after The Shining’s initial release, “Visually, it’s a knockout. Every frame, every tracking shot is a masterpiece of cold, paranoid composition.”

PD. Smith (2013) The Shining by Roger Luckhurst – review. At:
Derek Malcolm (2014) From the archive, 2 October 1980: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – review. At
David Konow (2013) The Shining and The Steadicam. At:

List of Illustrations:
Figure 2. Danny riding his tricycle [Film Still] At:
Figure 3. At the door: Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in The Shining  [Film Still] At:

Figure 4. Filming with the steadicam. At:

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