So I was looking for another movie that’s related to quarantine, and found out that The Shining had turned 40. Great. Awesome. This movie is essentially the definition of cabin fever, so of course I’ll talk about it. We’re still stuck here, so let’s discuss a classic about what happens to someone when they’re isolated for too long. Or, you know, when an evil spirit possesses them or whatever. It happens.
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Shining is about a family who is tasked to take care of the Overlook Hotel for several months. The patriarch, Jack (Jack Nicolson), is an aspiring writer and so he uses his isolated time to work on his book. However, strange occurrences take place as Danny (Danny Lloyd) sees visions of terrible events that happened in the hotel. Jack on the other hand, goes insane.
This is one of the most well known psychological horror films, yet, Stephen King famously hates it. One of the reasons is Jack Nicolson’s portrayal of Jack. I don’t really blame him, since the character Jack was more sympathetic in the book, while Nicolson’s portrayal didn’t exactly put him in a good light to begin with.
Regardless, it’s a very atmospheric and immersive film. It’s not my favorite kind of horror, but I do appreciate the symbolism, themes and theories that came out of it. Though, there were some things that were questionable…
Yeah, out of context, this bear costume scene looks weird, but even with context, it’s still weird. I don’t care how much analysis you throw at me for this particular scene, it’s not going to change my mind that this is weird.
Anyways, back to the atmosphere…the atmosphere is one of the major keys for making a good horror film. Audiences have to gain a sense of foreboding as if they’re in the characters’ shoes, and The Shining does this exceptionally well. In fact, I’ll say that it’s the best aspect of the movie.
You really feel like you’re trapped in this hotel. There’s a sense of claustrophobia and an uncomfortable tingling crawls up your skin. Especially during the maze scene. The part where Danny meets the twins at the end of the hallway is probably one of the most iconic examples of dread. Though, since it’s been parodied so much, the scene does lose some of its merit. However, it’s still a great scene and there’s a reason why it’s so memorable.
Another aspect that the movie does well is its setting. The Overlook Hotel is essentially the main antagonist of the film. While it obviously doesn’t speak, its presence alone poses a threat. The hotel has witnessed murders, suicides, and other horrible and strange events. All these atrocities are warped into a sort of madness that latches to Jack — turning him mad as well. So much so that he seeks out to murder his own family.
Though there’s speculation of what really drove Jack mad, some say it really was the hotel and its ghostly inhabitants, while others say that Jack was insane to begin with and he just snapped.
As far as diversity goes well…spoilers for a 40 year old movie, I guess. There’s another character named Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). He’s black and in a horror movie, so, you can already guess what happens to him. The fact that anyone can guess what happens speaks for itself.
There’s also Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and she’s treated horribly by Jack. Even before he goes insane, he treats her like trash and Wendy is a mess through out the film. You just feel sorry for her as she’s either upset about something, or screaming. It also didn’t help that the director, Stanley Kubrick tormented Duvall during shooting, causing her immense stress.
Overall, The Shining is a great film to watch for its atmosphere and setting. While the characters’ portrayals could’ve been more accurate to the book, they’re all still memorable nonetheless. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you still at least know who Jack is.
So while we’re still stuck in quarantine, hopefully none of us end up wielding an axe and chasing after loved ones.
Originally published by Lauren Massuda May 30, 2020