Sunday, 7 December 2014

Film Review - The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Fig 1. The Shining Poster.

The Shining, a film that shows a family of three travel high into the mountains to be caretakers at the 'Overlook Hotel' during their winter season. One of the early scenes shows the family in their car, driving up the winding, precarious mountainside road to the hotel. This sequence is accompanied by loud eerie music that gives the audience a sense that this is the beginning of something sinister.

The Shining was a film never seen before, it brought something completely new to the horror genre. Ian Nathan states ''Kubrick, akin to his trippy treatment of the sci-fi genre, was elevating horror to a different plane, removing its camp wiggeries and bogeymen to infuriate and bedazzle with sinewy suggestion and sumptuous, awe-inspiring technique. Technically, there is no better film in the genre. Its chills are less direct'' (Nathan, s.d.). Instead of the usual mix of gore and cheap scares in previous films, The Shining used a chilling soundtrack and meticulous design in all aspects of the film to create something truly thrilling. It creates a slow, constant build-up of tension that half the time leads to silence instead of a visual climax to shock the viewer. This confuses them and leaves them hanging on to the tension that is left, waiting anxiously for the scare they were expecting. Part of the films success is certainly due to the fact that when it was released, it was a fresh idea on how horror should be defined.

For the most part, the film plays out as if all of the horror could simply be Jack's visions and hallucinations. It is not until near the end of the film, when his wife Wendy sees some visions herself that it becomes harder for that to be the case. With regards to the characters, Roger Ebert has this to say ''Jack sits at a typewriter in the great hall, pounding relentlessly at his typewriter, while Wendy and Danny put together a version of everyday life that includes breakfast cereal, toys and a lot of TV. There is no sense that the three function together as a loving family.'' (Ebert, 2006). There is a very obvious distance between the family, even on car journey over to the hotel. The enormity of the spaces in the hotel emphasises their serious family issues. Throughout the film the majority of scenes show either one of them, or the occasional meeting between two. They are rarely seen in the same shot together after the car journey and even when they do, there is usually some distress or violence being shown. Jack's character in particular is the most peculiar, he is always shown as either mildly depressed, uncomfortably cheerful or is having some sort of mental breakdown. This makes him seem like he was already losing his mind before he went there and that the isolation simply pushed him over the edge.

Fig 2. Tricycle Still.

''There's pure inspiration simply in the scene in which young Danny (Danny Lloyd) rides his tricycle around the endless corridors, the wheels thundering on the wooden floor, then suddenly quiet over the carpets.'' (Bradshaw, 2012). This extract from Peter Bradshaw's review of the film shows an excellent example of the incredible sound scape of the film. The repetitive change in sound from dull wooden floors to the soft carpets makes the simple scene quite uncomfortable. The low-angle shot used is just behind the tricycle and as such the viewer is constantly seeing the floor, because of this they are aware of the next change in sound as the carpets and floor zoom towards the camera almost without end (see fig 2). You can be lulled into a strangely irritable boredom when watching this scene, it feels tense and you cannot look away as each corner is turned and a new hallway looms ahead. The Shining is a unique experience and cannot be faulted in its design, everything feels like it both belongs and has significant importance.

Illustration List

Kubrick, S (1980) Figure 1. The Shining Poster. (Accessed on 27/11/14)

Kubrick, S (1980) Figure 2. Tricycle Still. (Accessed on 07/12/14)


Nathan, I (s.d.) (Accessed on 07/12/14)

Ebert, R (2006) (Accessed on 07/12/14)

Bradshaw, P (2012) (Accessed on 07/12/14)

1 comment:

  1. Another very readable review Jack - well done :)

    Just don't forget to italicise the film name... and make sure that your bibliography is ordered alphabetically by author's surname.