The Shining (1980)


Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duval, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Based on the novel: The Shining by Stephen King
Rating: A

Every winter the Overlook Hotel in Colorado is closed due to the heavy snow that blocks the roads. The hotel hires a caretaker to keep the place in shape during the long months from October to May. Jack Torrance (Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer, takes the job as caretaker and moves his family into the hotel. The manager warns Jack that past caretakers have cracked under the intense isolation and admits that it once led to a gruesome murder. Not bothered by the news, Jack heartily accepts the position, saying that the peace and quiet is what he needs to write his novel.

The head chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman), notices something special in the Torrance’s young son, Danny. In a private conversation, he asks Danny about his psychic ability. He calls it “the shining”. Danny reluctantly explains that his invisible friend, Tony, shows him things that have and haven’t happened yet. Over the period of time when a brutal snowstorm cuts the Torrance’s off from communication, they begin to feel suffocated by the emptiness of the hotel. Strange phenomenon’s start to occur and Jack becomes taken over by insanity.

The Shining was just creepy enough without going overboard to induce nightmares. Kubrick chose the right moments to zoom the camera on things in the movie. It wasn’t overdone which was perfect for creating tension. The director plays on a few types of fear: the supernatural, the familial, and the isolation. There are elements of the strange, like Danny’s ability and the brief encounters that haunt the hotel rooms. Then there is the fear of Danny’s own father, who is driven crazy and is on a murdering rampage. The isolation plays into fear because of how alone the family is. The only connection they have to the outside world is through the radio. The police can do little but comfort them over the airwaves.

The music played a vital role in manipulating the viewer’s emotion. There was some disturbing compositions, like in the opening of the movie with the car driving along the mountain. The music was ominous here and then a strange birdcall-like sound puts the viewer on edge. Another example is when a scene cut, the next one began with a  black screen telling the time (one month later/Tuesday/Thursday/etc) and it was dead quiet for two seconds. It was perfect because at the end of one scene, the sudden quiet makes the viewer tense and ready to jump a few times.

There’s no wonder why The Shining is a classic. It’s a terrifying but enjoyable movie.


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