Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Film Review: The Shining

The sixth film we watched from the ‘Unhomely’ film programme was The Shining, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick and was released in 1980.

Fig. 1 The Shining Poster
Stanley Kubrick truly brings Stephen King's novel The Shining to life in this creepy classic in which a family are set to live in a luxurious hotel while the father takes up the position of the caretaker a job that drove one of the previous caretakers insane with horrific results. What makes this a fantastic film to watch and probably one of its best highlights is the lack of the supernatural that is present in King's novel and the emphasis this puts on the interpretation of what causes the events to unfold. In Richard Schickel's review for the Time he states: 

"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." (Schickel, 1980)

What Kubrick does is he removes the supernatural, ghostly and monstrous elements but in order for him to retain the same scare and horror that these provides he replaces them with visions, hallucination and nightmares taking the film away from the supernatural and into the more psychological. However there is a nice use of ambiguity around what causes all of these things to happen, particularly in the case when Jack, the soon to be insane father, begins hearing the voice of the caretaker that died there years before. In this instance Jack is locked in a storage room where he has received a blow to the head from his terrified wife. The resulting concussion could suggest that Jack is hearing things in his disorientated state, or that the conversation was in fact a dream or hallucination. Whether these are correct or not is not discussed or explained in the film and so it remains unknown.

"Elegantly disturbing images ensue as Jack's writer's block gives way to derangment and his son sensitivity to the paranormal peels back the layers of history." (Film4, -)

On the other hand however Jack's son Danny who has a gift referred to as 'shining', which allows him to see things others cannot, suggests that in some form, Kubrick retained some supernatural element in which he repeatedly sees two girls, who are eerily dressed the same, that died at the hotel all those years before. This suggestion of these girls being of paranormal origins is debatable though as Danny receives visions from them which may also suggest that Danny is envisioning them through the 'shining'.

A great element that adds to this psycho-horror is the photograph hanging on the wall in the hotel, where, upon closer inspection reveals Jack to be present in it even though it was dated back to the 1920's. Ian Nathan writes in his review:

"Grady, the previous caretaker, a man driven to slaughter his family (the source of Danny's disturbing second sight of the blue-dressed sisters) is another of Torrance's visitation states — "You have always been the caretaker," Grady suggests menacingly." (Nathan, -) 

The line "You have always been the caretaker," suggests that Jack could quite possibly be a reincarnation of the person from the photograph. Although this idea is unlikely, it is one to consider as not many other explanations could fit such a damned and horrific hotel.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Kubrick, Stanley (1980) The Shining Poster. At:
(Accessed on 12.01.11)


Schickel, Richard (1980) Cinema: Red Herrings and Refusals.
At:,9171,924179,00.html (Accessed on 12.01.11)

Film4 (-) The Shining.
At: (Accessed on 12.01.11)

Nathan, Ian (-) The Shining.
At:                      (Accessed on 12.01.11)

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