Scary Movie Classics: “The Shining” Review

Rebekah Icenesse

Since it’s almost Halloween, let’s take it back to 1980, when a horror movie classic came out and became one of the most influential horror movies ever made. “The Shining” is a film that has received mixed criticism throughout the 29 years since it has been released, but it still is a movie that is horrifying and perfect if you want to watch a scary movie to bring in the Halloween spirit.

“The Shining” is Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel. It follows the story of the Torrance family moving into the Overlook Hotel as caretakers for the winter. During their stay, they start to experience the evil spirits and manifestations that run the hotel, not completely knowing the dark history about the previous caretakers who turned murderous.

Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, Shelley Duvall plays Wendy, and Danny Lloyd plays Danny, who has a psychic ability to “shine.”

What the movie does really well is setting the scene of dread and isolation.

The Torrance family are isolated from the world and miles from any other civilization, especially when there’s a bad blizzard that makes all the roads inaccessible. From the opening scene of them driving through the mountains of Colorado with the eerie music in the background, you already know that something bad is going to happen soon.

While they are at the hotel for months, they have to find things to occupy themselves, like Danny riding his bike through the halls and Jack working on his writing. They are left to try and find ways to keep their minds busy so they don’t get cabin fever. This ends up not going well when strange things start to happen to Danny and Jack.

“The Shining” is a film that has a lot to interpret because it does not follow the exact storyline of the novel. More of the focus is on Jack and his descent into madness, rather than the actual haunted hotel, which is what the novel shows more of.

This is a psychological horror movie, and it relies more on the creepy atmosphere than jump scares. It’s a slow-burn horror that keeps you wondering what’s going to happen in the end.

I think the true horror of the movie is the family dynamic that gets torn apart from living in the hotel. The audience has to infer whether or not it was the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel who were behind the mayhem or if it was all in Jack’s head.

The most interesting thing about this movie is the cinematography. The mountain landscape is beautiful, and the hotel is big and majestic, especially the giant hedge maze.

Color plays a big part throughout the film, with Kubrick showing color changes in the decor and clothing of the characters. Red, green, and blue are the most prominent colors used to signify the contrasts in the characters’ emotions and mental states.

Another interesting technique that has a lot of symbolism is the usage of mirrors. The mirrors are shown to act as a duality in nature, which coincides with the underlying theme of the plot and a popular concept that Kubrick uses in his movies.

On the characters and acting, I think Nicholson and Duvall did a pretty good job in their roles. Nicholson always plays a good crazy character, and Duvall portrays a weak-minded wife who eventually finds some strength to fight back. Scatman Crothers, who plays the hotel cook, also does a good job in his role of trying to be a helpful source but also sharing the same psychic abilities that Danny has.

There is a lot to unpack and analyze with this film, a lot of it being up to your own interpretation. Did Jack really die in the end? Was he a reincarnation of another caretaker who died, and is that why he was in the 1920’s picture at the very end?

There’s a lot of questions that go unanswered, but that’s the fun of a psychological horror film.