Kubrick’s rendition of Stephen King’s “The Shining” is a chilling film. It is one of the few films that has brought life into a book successfully. Although, some of King’s fans say that the movie is missing essential elements of the book’s plot. According to David Hughes, a Kubrick biographer at the time, Stephen King wrote an entire screenplay for The Shining. Kubrick did not even read this screenplay; he deemed King’s writing “weak.” To us, this speaks volumes about the amount of confidence that Kubrick had in himself. With Nicholson delivering an all-time performance and with the help of Shelly Duvall, the acting in this film is top-notch. The cinematography throughout the film is incredible. Creative angles and crafty camera work push The Shining into the upper echelon of horror films.
Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining in 1980. The film was only supposed to take seventeen weeks to shoot initially. In the end, it took roughly 51 weeks. Jack Nicholson plays the main character (Jack). Jack’s wife, Wendy, is played by Shelley Duvall. Their son in the film goes by Danny or Doc, and Danny Lloyd plays him.
The opening shot of Jack’s family car winding up the colorado mountain is incredible. Accompanied by the eerie intro music, it makes for a fantastic opening scene
The film is a classic tale of cabin fever. The Torrance family is isolated from society and has no one to conversate with outside of themselves. In one of the opening scenes, Jack sits down with Mr. Ullman. He continuously reassures Ullman that alone time was not an issue for him. He was an aspiring writer looking for some peace and quiet. We later find out this is not the case.
Early in the film, we learn that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, who he describes as “a boy who lives in his mouth.” Tony shows Danny terrible things, from what we can tell, as we see when Danny has visions and gains insight into what happens at the Overlook. Danny’s parents fail to see the gift he possesses, but this talent does not go overlooked by Dick Hallorann, the head chef at the Overlook. He brings Danny under his wing and shares with him that he, too, shares the same gift. Hallorann coins the gift “shining” and explains to Danny the importance of this talent.
As the next scene plays out, you can feel the tension tighten when Wendy greets Jack in his writing room, and he returns the greeting with nothing but hostility. This scene is the first glimpse the viewer has of who Jack is. Maybe this is due to the sudden isolation? Or perhaps this is just the real Jack.
From this point on, it’s a slow unraveling of the mind of Jack Torrence. He appears to be in a daze for the rest of the film, almost as if the hotel has possessed him.
Shortly after this, Danny seems to be playing with his toys until a ball rolls in his direction. He follows the path that the ball took, and he is led directly into room 237. The same room that he and Hallorann discussed earlier in the kitchen. We don’t see what transpires here after Danny enters the room, as the scene then cuts to a manic Jack, who is having a nightmare in his writing room. He tells Wendy that his nightmare entailed the murder of her and their son. Maybe this was a brief moment of Jack returning to his normal state. Although if it is, it’s short-lived because Jack appears dazed again immediately after, confused by the injuries Danny just sustained in room 237.
So now we have to wonder, what is in room 237? The book offers more insight into this, as it elaborates on a guest that used to be a regular at the Overlook who went by the name of Lorraine Massey. She would lure young bellhops into her room to seduce them. Until one day, she took her own life in the bathtub by cutting her wrists. Danny claims that when he entered 237, a “crazy woman” tried to strangle him. Was this the ghost of Lorraine Massey? When Jack investigates, he finds a similar situation that Danny and the book have described.
A little bit later in the movie, Jack hallucinates an event in the “Gold Ballroom.” In this ballroom, he meets another hotel ghost, Delbert Grady. This ghost shares the same last name as the winter caretaker in 1970 that was responsible for the murder of his family. Grady tells Jack that he “corrected” his family in the past and encourages him to do the same. Jack takes these orders very seriously and intends to carry them out.
The very next scene displays a startling revelation to the viewer. Wendy slowly creeps into Jack’s writing room, looking for him. When she cannot locate him, she looks at his desk and finds his work. Every line on every page reads, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” in various misspellings. At this moment, Nicholson’s character reaches new depths of insanity in the viewer’s eyes. The line that Jack repeated consistently in his writing was Jack’s way of trying to overcome his writing block. As you can see, that never came to fruition.
After Jack takes his tumble down the stairs, Wendy locks him up in their food storage room in the kitchen. Once Jack comes to and realizes what is happening, it’s already too late. So he then tries to prey on Wendy’s emotions as he acts innocent and pleads for help on the other side of the door. Intelligently, she leaves, and he proceeds to bang on the door. Not long after Wendy exits the kitchen, Jack speaks to the ghost of Delbert Grady again. After some chit-chat, Grady opens the door for Jack to continue his murderous rampage.
Kubrick invites the audience to believe in the supernatural here, as that is the only plausible explanation for this scene. The hotel appears to be aiding Jack in his quest to destroy his family.
This brings us to the iconic scene of Jack breaking into the family bedroom with an axe as he calmly proclaims, “Wendy, I’m home.” Wendy then locks herself and Danny in the bathroom. She slips Danny out the window and down a snow bank to safety.
The death of Dick Hallorann was unfortunate but vital to the film. He was the only point of view that could be trusted, as he had not succumbed to the effects of the isolation in the Overlook. So from this moment on, the audience cannot be too sure of anything they see.
After all the commotion, Jack freezes to death in the labyrinth of hedges. Wendy and Danny then use the snowcat that Hallorann arrived in to escape, which brings us to the final shot, that leaves us with more questions than answers. The slow zoom into a photograph on a wall in the hotel. As the camera zooms, you realize the picture has writing that says “Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921,” and Jack Torrence is front and center of it all.
How is this possible?
Kubrick said that the photo displays the current Jack that we know is the reincarnation of a prior caretaker. This theory is supported by bits of evidence throughout the film. When Jack is speaking with Delbert Grady in the ballroom bathroom, Grady says to Jack, “you’ve always been the caretaker.” The two versions of Grady also support this theory. The ghostly butler that Jack runs into is Delbert Grady, while the murderous prior caretaker of the Overlook is named Charles Grady. Another reinforcement of the theory that Kubrick provided for the audience’s interpretation.
All in all, The Shining is a beautiful work of art that has well withstood the test of time.