Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Film Review: The Shining (1980)

Fig.1 The Shining, Movie Poster (1980)

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaption of the Stephen King novel, The Shining is a horror masterpiece. From the very beginning it is evident that trouble is brewing when struggling writer Jack Torrence (played by Jack Nicholson) brings his wife, Wendy and young son, Danny to stay at the secluded and troubled Overlook Hotel for the winter months (Fig.2). Jack is employed as off-season caretaker with plans to work on his book, but when the isolation of the hotel and frustrations of writing get the better of him, things take a nasty turn.

 Fig.2. The Overlook Hotel, Movie Still (1980)
Although Kubrick never provides us with complete answers to the many questions raised in the film, it is evident from very early on that the Torrence family relationships are already fraught (Fig.3). Jack's sarcastic nature, teamed with his maniacal smile taunt us throughout the film and Shelley Duvall portrays Wendy as his nervous, but patient and long-suffering wife. We are given the impression that Jack is a violent, hot-tempered man, with a possible history of alcohol abuse. Their son, Danny posses psychic abilities and has an imaginary friend, called Tony, who warns him of the evil within the Overlook Hotel. The previous caretaker, named Grady, was said to lose his mind and kill not only his wife, but also his two young daughters who appear before Danny at several points in the movie (Fig.4).
Fig.3 The Torrence Family, Movie Still (1980)
Fig.4 The Grady twins, Movie Still (1980)
Kubrick is well known for the relentless detail he puts into his films and The Shining is no exception. As Ian Nathan says in his Empire Online review "In accordance with the Kubrick legend, the process of making the  movie took meticulousness to staggering levels - Shelley Duvall was reputedly forced to do no less than 127 takes of one scene; Nicholson was force fed endless cheese sandwiches (which he loathes) to generate a sense of inner revulsion, and the recent invention of the Steadicam (by Garret Brown) fuelled Kubrick's obsessive quest for perfection. The result is gloriously precision-made." (Nathan, s.d.)
The feeling of isolation and being trapped is evident throughout the film, not only in the labyrinth in the grounds of the hotel, but also in the carpets, the wallpaper and the Hotel itself (Fig.5) When taking a tour of the hotel, Wendy Torrence says "This whole place is such an enormous maze, I feel I'll have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I come in." James Gracey talks of this in his Eye For Film review when he says "The motif of the maze is evident throughout the film's production design, repeated as it is in carpets, wallpapers, the never-ending empty hallways; it enhances the notion of doomed individuals who are trapped not only in a threatening physical space, but within their own minds, too." (Gracey, 2014). Kubrick also uses the symmetry and clean, cold environments so famous in all of his work (Fig.6) as well as a shrill and suspense-inducing classical soundtrack.
Fig.5. The Maze Carpet, Movie Still (1980)
Fig.6 Jack's Study at the Overlook Hotel, Movie Still (1980)

There are many intense parts of the movie and the viewer is constantly on the edge of their seat. As NY Times reviewer, Janet Maslin says "The Shining may be the first movie that ever made its audience jump with a title that simply says "Tuesday"." (Maslin, s.d.). The turning point of the film happens quite early on when Jack stumbles into the hotel bar known as The Gold Room. Here he sees hallucinations of 1920s party-goers and meets a waiter by the name of 'Grady'. Jack soon realises that Grady is, in fact, the previous caretaker who urges him to 'correct' his wife and son for their errors. Wendy meanwhile grows increasingly concerned about her husband's threatening behaviour and when she finds the repeatedly typed words "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" on his typewriter, she knows the time has come for her and Danny to make their escape (Fig.7).
Fig.7 - Jack's repeatedly typed warning, Movie Still (1980)
Although over thirty years old, The Shining has a timeless appeal that proves it to be one of the greatest films of all time. Even at a lengthy 144 minutes long, the film is paced in a such a way that our interest is kept throughout and at the end of the film we feel as though we have been through the entire ordeal and loved every minute.
Illustration List:
Figure 1. The Shining, (1980) [Poster] At:
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Figure 3. The Torrence Family, (1980) [Movie Still] At:  http://www.otekisinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/The-Shining-1980.png
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Figure 4. The Grady Twins, (1980) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Figure 5. The Maze Carpet, (1980) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Figure 7. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", (1980) [Movie Still] At: http://cdn5.movieclips.com/warner-bros/t/the-shining-1980/0528914_17157_MC_Tx304.jpg
(Accessed on 25.11.14)

Nathan, I (s.d.) Empire Online review At:
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Gracey, J (Sept 2014) Eye For Film review At:
(Accessed on 25.11.14)
Maslin, J (s.d.) NY Times review At:
 (Accessed on 25.11.14)



  1. Great review Emma - I really enjoyed reading it :) I just felt it could have done with more of a concluding sentence or paragraph; it seems to come to a bit of an abrupt end...

  2. @Jackie - I completely agree - I thought the same myself at the time. Think it was just tiredness that made me stop where I did and I should have hung on for that last little bit!! I've added a few lines at the end. Think it reads better now.