Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Shining (1980)

Fig 1
The Shining is a Stanley Kubrick film from 1980, based upon the eerie, claustrophobic nature of isolation; the grim consequences of the Oedipus complex and most importantly, the display of utter madness in every frame. Jack decides to isolate himself, along with wife Wendy and son Danny, in a vast, mountainous hotel for the winter in order to finish his writing without distraction. From the beginning it is clear that Jack has no intention of writing, as he slowly but surely becomes more demented and overcome by what seem to be hallucinations, but for Jack are all too real.
One of the most compelling aspects of the film is the set design, which Kubrick deliberately toys with to the point of inconsistency, in order to unsettle the audience further. “We wanted the hotel to look authentic rather than like a traditionally spooky movie hotel. The hotel’s labyrinthine layout and huge rooms, I believed, would alone provide an eerie enough atmosphere. This realistic approach was also followed in the lighting, and in every aspect of the d├ęcor,” (Kubrick, 1981) From the obscurely jagged pattern styles and sickly orange colour palettes, the lobbies we are taken through countless times become more and more unnerving and repetitive. Incidentally, the bathroom of Room 237 (see Fig 2) is made up almost entirely of a lime green hue, whereas The Gold Room toilets we are presented with are a much more post-modern red and white design, making the hotel seem miles away from the upper floors and therefore maze-like.

Fig 2
From the opening shots of scarce mountainous landscapes, the voyeuristic camera glides like a ghost, smoothly behind the Torrance family car at unsettlingly lopsided angles, (see Fig 3) giving the audience no time to prepare for the impending dread. “The unhurried pace, extended dialogue scenes and those sudden, sinister inter-titles (“One Month Later”, “4pm”) contribute to the insidious unease.” (Bradshaw, 2012) The scenes of dialogue, most of which occur between apparitions of delusion, expose the insidious nature of the Torrance family’s relationship, as the mother-father-son trio are almost never seen in the hotel all at once. Many scenes can be found of the family travelling through the hotel, which maintain the same voyeuristic from-behind shot, which gives the impression that none of them are ever truly alone, as if being followed or watched.

Fig 3
Many scenes in the film foreshadow the grizzly end. “He plays ball alone in the hotel as his wife and child wander playfully through the maze of the hedge. But there is no fulfilment in his game. When he writes page after page repeating the same sentence, he is unravelling like HAL the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey who keeps repeating himself as Dave makes him come apart.” (Macklin, 1981) The ball scene in particular exposes Jack’s frustration and echoes the repetition of his stay at the hotel. Whilst analysing the model maze in the same scene, (see Fig 4) Jack appears to be the puppet-master of a more elaborate game and, coupled with the following zoom shot, almost appears to be watching his family scatter through the model walls. Other examples of foreshadowing would include the carpet design upon which Danny famously trikes and the scene in which Hallorann tours the family through the labyrinth of a hotel and concludes at the freezer.

Fig 4

Kubrick still astounds audiences today with his incredible attention to detail, cleverly orchestrated soundtrack and phenomenal casting to produce one of the true horror greats of our time.



Kubrick, S. (1981) Kubrick on The Shining

Bradshaw, P. (2012) The Shining Review

Macklin, T. (1981) Understanding Kubrick: The Shining


Fig 1. The Shining Poster (1980) From: The Shining - Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Fig 2. The Shining Screenshot (1980) From: The Shining - Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Fig 3. The Shining Screenshot (1980) From: The Shining - Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Fig 4. The Shining Screenshot (1980) From: The Shining - Directed by: Stanley Kubrick


  1. Hi Josh,

    Well, I have just read this and the last two reviews, so I will just comment on this one...
    All three, very satisfying to read :)
    Just be careful with some of your word choice; in this review, for example, you say 'From the opening shots of scarce mountainous landscapes' - should that be 'sparce', as in bare?
    Other than that, not much to say really - keep it up!

  2. Hi - about Friday's animation sessions...

  3. Hey Josh! Check this out to get yourself ready for next week's presentation! :)

  4. Hey Josh - your work got special mention by Matthew Fletcher at Glassworks in last month's PWTM - check out the comments thread - congrats! :)