Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Shining - Movie review

The Shining - 1980
Director - Stanley Kubrick

1) The Shining Movie poster

Plot Summary / review:

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a struggling writer who agrees to take a job as a caretaker of The Overlook Hotel in the Rockies. During the Winter months, the hotel gets cut off from civilisation due to heavy snow so the staff and guests vacate. The caretaker role comes with a minimal work load of general maintenance so Jack accepts the position with the view to work on his writing in solitude. Despite a warning from the general manager that the previous caretaker Delbert Grady, murdered his wife and two daughters and committed suicide, Jack relocates with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd).

2) Torrance family

Jacks son, Danny, appears to have clare voyant abilities which is channelled through his imaginary friend Tony. He shares this gift with the head chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) who they meet prior to the last remaining staff vacating. Dick informs us that his grandmother used to call this gift "the shining". After talking with Danny, Dick warns him to stay away from room 237 before he leaves on his holiday.

3) Danny Torrance

4) Dick Hallorann

The Torrance's settle into a lonely family routine in their new "home". Jack struggles with his writing, Wendy does her housewife duties and Danny plays on his own, haunted by visions of two little girls and the elevator doors flooding the halls with blood. 

5) Grady girls

Jack becomes more irritable and short tempered with Wendy, angrily warning her to let him work in peace. His temperament spirals as time bares on and cabin fever takes its hold. Danny's curiousness gets the better of him and he explores room 237, just as Wendy finds Jack screaming from a nightmare after falling asleep at his typewriter. Jack explains he dreamt he killed Wendy and Danny with an axe, as Danny emerges with a ripped jumper and bruised neck. Wendy assumes the worst and blames Jack for the act of violence. Furious, Jack walks off to the "Gold Room" and sits at the bar, pleading and selling his soul for an alcoholic drink.

6) Gold room bar

Jacks madness deepens as he starts to imagine he is talking to staff within hotel, disclosing that he did "accidentally" hurt Danny 3 years earlier and that he has had a drinking problem. He has an encounter with a young lady in room 237 who inadvertently turns into a rotting corpse and chases him out of the room. Back in the bar he meets the butler, who reveals himself to be Mr. Grady, who "corrected" his wife and daughters after they tried to escape the hotel and burn it down. Mr. Grady convinces Jack to correct his family as Danny was using his gift to bring in an outside party, Dick Hallorann.

7) Populated Gold room bar

Wendy discovers that Jack hasn't been working for the entire duration, instead he has typed over and over again "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy". After a confrontation with her insane husband, she manages to knock him unconscious and lock him in the food storage area. She discovers that he has sabotaged the radio and snow mobile making impossible for her and Danny to leave. Meanwhile, Dick Hallorann is attempting to reach the hotel via another snow mobile after a receiving a telepathic distress call from Danny.

8) The chase

After escaping from captivity, Jack pursues Wendy and Danny with an axe prompting the films most famous line "here's Johnny". Wendy and Danny get separated in the chaos as Dick Hallorann arrives at the hotel. Jack kills him with his axe, causing Danny to scream and reveal his location. Jack chases Danny into the Hotel court maze. Realising Jack is tracking his footprints in the snow, Danny retraces his steps and manages to escape his father who get's lost in the freezing snow. Meanwhile Wendy is haunted by ghostly apparitions in the hotel and escapes outside to find Danny. They escape in Dick Halloranns snow mobile, leaving Jack to freeze in the snow.

Stanley Kubrick adapted certain parts of Stephen Kings book "The Shining" into his own screenplay much to the dismay of die hard fans of the book. Kubrick's screenplay does not remove the supernatural element but puts more emphasis on the psychological affect of being cut off from the civilised World.  "If one is determined to find a super natural explanation for the strange goings-on in the old, grand, snowbound hotel in the Rockies, it is just barely possible to do so. But Stanley Kubrick really does not care. His adaptation of The Shining, Stephen King's pulpy haunted-house novel, keeps forcing reasonable — or non-occult — interpretations on the behavior, variously bonkers and bloody, that his camera records with its customary elegance." (Schickel, 2010).

Kubrick explores traditional domestic issues but amplifies their problems by placing the family in unique isolated location. All three of the main characters suffer from the isolation, asking the question if the ghostly apparitions are real or really part of their imaginations. "The movie is not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose in an isolated situation primed to magnify them." (Ebert, 2007)

Jack Nicholson delivers an outstanding performance as a father with a chequered past, descending into utter madness and chaos. Shelley Duvall survives a dreary opening act but affectively descends into shear terror as her husband stalks her. They are supported by excellent cameos from Phillip Stone as the Butler Gardy and particularly Joe Turkel as the eerie Lloyd the bartender. Kubrick was renowned for coaxing the best from actors. Reportedly reducing Shelley Duvall to tears through repetition of scenes and forcing Jack Nicholson to eat his least favourite food, cheese sandwiches to make him angry. A technique which translates on screen extremely well. However, the real star of the film is the hotel itself. Purposely well lit and shot with exquisite detail the Overlook has an uncanny, homely feel that makes it even more terrifying. "The Overlook would undoubtedly amount to one of the screen's scarier haunted houses even without its special feature, a feature that gives The Shining its richness and its unexpected intimacy. The Overlook is something far more fearsome than a haunted house—it's a home." (Maslin, 1980).


Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times review. 8th May 2007 - Accessed 10/01/11

Maslin, Janet. New York Times review. 23rd May 1980 - Accessed 10/01/11

Schickel, Richard. Time Magazine review. 21st October 2010,9171,924179,00.html - Accessed 10/01/11


1) The Shining movie poster - Accessed 10/01/11

2) Torrance Family - Accessed 10/01/11

3) Danny Torrance - Accessed 10/01/11

4) Dick Hallorann - Accessed 10/01/11

5) Grady girls - Accessed 10/01/11

6) Gold room bar - Accessed 10/01/11

7) Populated Gold room bar - Accessed 10/01/11

8) The Chase - Accessed 10/01/11

1 comment:

  1. 'Kubrick really doesn't care'

    If only more film makers understood 'horror' and what the audience doesn't need in shot...