By Patrick Naremore
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, is perhaps one of the best and most profound horror movies of all time. Not only is it made by one of the most highly regarded directors of all time, but it is also based off of the novel by Stephen King. Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King are both kings (hehehe) in their respected arts. The Shining, although a horror movie, is not your everyday cheesy, cliché paranormal activity movie, or some monster movie focused on how many guts may be spilt, no it is not that. The Shining is a classic.
Just because I said that The Shining does not include monsters killing people everywhere, or ghosts pulling people off their beds and people freaking out about it for half an hour, does not mean the it is not scary in any way. The Shining does contain violence, blood, and gore, which is a near necessity for horror movies. More importantly, this movie is about psychological and human corruption.
The basic plot is that Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, along with his wife Wendy, played by Shelley Duvall, and his son Danny, have to live in an empty hotel called the Overlook during the winter since Jack is the caretaker now. Conveniently, the Overlook is laid on top of an ancient Indian burial ground. Ok, please believe me that this is not as cheesy as it sounds! Jack mainly spends his time trying to write, while Wendy and Danny explore and live in the hotel. As time passes Danny sees ghosts, premonitions, and disturbing images through his sight, or his “shining.” During this time Jack has done absolutely jack with his writing, and starts to succumb to cabin fever making him more and more unstable and crazy. The story is of Wendy and Danny surviving Jack and the ghosts haunting the hotel.
What makes up a horror movie though? To some people, The Shining may be not so scary or creepy at all. But to others who enjoy and are scared by psychological horror movies, this can be among the scariest movies ever. But the fact that it contains violence, ghosts, and very scary images, feelings of being lost and in a labyrinth and claustrophobia, convincing acting by every actor, along with Jack’s mental breakdown is what makes this movie truly scary at many levels. If you were to say that The Shining is a monster horror movie, the only way to relate a monster to it is the Torrance family, which slowly breaks down and becomes the monster in the film. The great difference in this horror story compared to others, such as Paranormal Activity, is that Stephen King turned The Shining into a horror story of an everyday family that is horribly destroyed.
Aside from the horror part of the film, The Shining can also be seen as a piece of film art. Stanley Kubrick makes every scene, every shot, and every angle important. For example, the composition and framing of specific shots of Danny are very, very similar to other specific shots of Jack. This relation has been held open for interpretation, such as relating them to the possibility of child abuse, and this is one of the great things that Kubrick is able to do. Much of what he does leaves more questions than answers, but that is one of the ways Kubrick makes the entire audience sit at the edge of the seat. But the symbols in The Shining… yeah well there are a lot of them. The symbolism in this horror movie makes you really think long and hard about what purpose they serve, and it really enhances the post-watching experience. You will just have to watch to really know what I am talking about.
The Shining is really a masterpiece as a horror movie and an artistic film. But one of the most important points of this film is not focused on the horror of ghosts or haunting beings, but it is about the scary and disturbing capabilities of regular (although pretty messed up) people. It’s about the truly terrifying breakdown of a human’s mind. But since Halloween is coming up, this is a great choice to be creeped out, slightly disturbed, and scared by old-school horror. This classic has released many cultural references from things like “Here’s Johnny!!” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”, to nearly every infamous scene including Jack Nicholson. The references are another reason why you should go home and watch this so that you can come back and use these references with all your friends, family, faculty, etc… The Shining deserves a 4.99/5, and this score is given without thorough and in-depth analysis of symbols, acting, meaning, and a whole lot else. So watch it before all school and no play makes you a dull boy.
Image Source: http://www.diariocambio.com.mx/2014/secciones/interesantopolis/item/167785-que-fue-del-nino-de-el-resplandor-foto