Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Shining (1980)

Fig. 1
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a truly terrifying psychological horror experience. Such intense fear can be felt, yet no one is able to stop watching. Known as a classic horror, The Shining does not disappoint. With its tension building scenes that makes even the most confident viewer jump out of their skin! The film follows Jack Torrance, a writer, who takes a job as an off-season caretaker at an isolated hotel in the mountains. Soon after him and his family move in it becomes clear that all is not well, with Jack's erratic behaviour and his son's psychic visions of the horrific past events, can only mean it will end in disaster. Jack's decent into madness or the idea he's been possessed by the supernatural can be seen at times as comical, yet with this comedy brings an uncanny fear with a lasting effect.

The film takes its audience on a journey of pure horror. The unpredictable uncanny scenes are even more disturbing with the crushing, mind numbing beat of the soundtrack. Both sound and the visual are beautifully entwined for maximum impact. The film has many references to Freud's ideas of the uncanny, to name a few the twins - the concept of 'the double', the fact that this one family is in a large, empty space - isolation and the significance of repetitive numbers and the evil behind it. These elements all add to the constant and powerful feel of unease. Richard Schickel states, "His [Kubrick] 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 1980) Schickel praises the cinematography and suggests this is one of the more successful elements of the film. There is something about the way the film is captured that immediately sits awkwardly with its audience.
Fig. 2
Ian Nathan observes, "Alive with portent and symbolism, every frame of the film brims with Kubrick's genius for implying psychological purpose in setting: the hotel's tight, sinister labyrinth of corridors; its cold, sterile bathrooms; the lavish, illusionary ballroom. This was horror of the mind transposed to place (or, indeed, vice versa). The clarity of the photography and the weird perspectives constantly alluding to Torrance's twisted state of mind. The supernatural elements are more elusive than the depiction of his madness." (Nathan 2007) Nathan examines the relationship of symbolism between the set design and Jack's decent into madness. He cleverly links the two ideas to show that when Jack's behaviour becomes more erratic the set design follows suit - ensuring this 'whirlwind' of events effects heavily on the audience.

Fig. 3
Jack Nicholson's performance is pure brilliance! His comical and animated facial expressions gives the audience an uncanny fear. The fact even at the start of the film, in the interview, there is already an underlying unease about the character makes it terrifying. His wide eyed and crocked smile is spine chillingly. Shelley Duvall's performance can be seen as irritating. True at times he constant whining almost makes the audience applaud Jack's effort to kill off her character, but the reality of her characters predicament makes her surprisingly realistic. The horror she feels portrayed by facial expressions influences the audience's fear. Roger Ebert suggests, "Kubrick delivers this uncertainty in a film where the actors themselves vibrate with unease. There is one take involving Scatman Crothers that Kubrick famously repeated 160 times. Was that "perfectionism," or was it a mind game designed to convince the actors they were trapped in the hotel with another madman, their director? Did Kubrick sense that their dismay would be absorbed into their performances?" (Ebert 2006) Ebert picks up on the techniques used by the director to enhance the actors performances and the idea that this is method acting, in the repetition of reacting the scene turns the actor mad, hence shown in the performance. It's an interesting concept and can be believed to be seen as the underlying success of the film.

 List of illustrations

Figure 1. Kubrick, Stanley (1980) The Shining Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Figure 2. Kubrick, Stanely (1980) Uncanny Twins. At:  (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Figure 3. Kubrick, Stanely (1980) Jack's Decent. At:  (Accessed on:13/1/12)


Richard Schickel (1980) The Shinning. At:,9171,924179,00.html (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Empire Magazine Ian Nathan (2007) Empire Essay: The Shining. At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

Roger Ebert (2006) The Shining (1980). At: (Accessed on:13/1/12)

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Frizzia! Love the way you dovetail your understanding of the uncanny with the events of the movie. This makes me happy!