The Shining follows the story of frustrated writer Jack Torrence who takes a job as the winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel so that he can write in peace. Jack arrives with his family Wendy - his wife and Danny - his son and as they are shown around the hotel they learn that the previous caretaker had gone mad. Slowly Jack descends into madness and becomes possessed by the demonic presence in the hotel.
This film is shrouded in ambiguity in it’s story and characters. The audience is given the hints to the story being a supernatural one with an over-sized hotel abandoned by everyone else but the family and haunted history of the previous caretaker who murdered his family then took a shotgun upon himself. However the audience is led away from these thoughts as the hotel is well lit and seem to be drawn to the past of the father after stories of alcoholism which question as to whether he will turn out to be the dealer of horror. The audience are shown many instances of Jack coming into contact with other people which can be instantly disregarded when Wendy enters the room and the waiter that he converses with disappears. It seems to bring forward the questioning of Jack’s psychological behaviour leads the audience to believe in his psyche being the core for the horror. Schickel comments on the reversals within the film and Jack’s erratic behaviour - “From the start Kubrick hints at reversals to come. There is something false in Nicholson's bonhomie as he applies for the job. Shortly thereafter a history of drifting and alcoholism is casually alluded to. This man may not be the usual horror-story victim of the inexplicable.” (Schickel, 1980)
Nicholson provides an admirable performance of writer Jack as he spirals into madness. He portrays him as a nervous wreck, twitching and writhing as his frustration increases and provides one of the most memorable quotes of all time, that being ‘Here’s Johnny’. Many of Jacks lines are humorous which provides an extremely unnerving and unsettling feel to the scenes. When he is trying to get to Wendy and Danny in the bathroom he shouts ‘Wendy? I’m home’ and then recites little pigs as he breaks the door with his axe. The horror of this film resides from the childlessness of his words and actions and with the horrific and crazy expression that Nicholson uses he becomes more fear inducing than that of any slasher character. Bartley agrees and states ‘Critics argue that Nicholson hams this role up, but he puts the fear of God into you like Jason and Freddie couldn't in a million slasher flicks. He's a tightly wound up ball of frustration and nerves that you just know is about to be pushed over the edge. He's most probably remembered in this role for the 'Here's Johnny!' line but it's a far more effective and subtle performance than that line would suggest. After battering the door down to get to his wife he announces romantically, 'Honey, I'm home'. It's one of the few sprinklings of humour in the film, but it comes naturally and acts as one of those moments of comic relief that manages to be terrifying at the same time.’ (Bartley, 2002)
The cinematography of the film is very clever and it shines with the attention to detail that Kubrick has for the film. It’s the little things that build up so much suspense within the film like the use of certain camera movements and an uncomfortable soundtrack to accompany it. Little things such as the change of Danny’s bike wheels on to carpet then back on to the wood accompanied by a Steadicam behind him which blocks our view of his next path building up the tension as to when something is going to be lurking around the corner. Nathan comments on this as well ‘The result is gloriously precision-made. The use of sound especially (listen to the remarkable rhythm qf silence then clatter set up by Danny pedalling his trike intermittently over carpet then wooden floor.)’ (Nathan)
Through the making of the film Nicholson and Duvall were continuously menaced by Kubrick in an attempt to create genuine performances from the both of them. Duvall broke down into tears frequently as Kubrick forced her to do multiple takes on scenes to bring the actress into a state of hilarity that Kubrick was happy with. Nicholson was also forced to eat cheese sandwiches which the actor despised forcing him to become annoyed. It’s these attentions to detail which rank The Shining as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time. There is so much tension built up through soundtrack and camera tricks which explodes when Jack does and through his horrifying unstable psychology it becomes an extremely uncomfortable experience to sit through.
Richard Schickel, 2 June 1980, The Shining review, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,924179,00.html
MP Bartley, 4 April 2002, The Shining review http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1383
Ian Nathan, date unknown, The Shining Review http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132700
Poster - http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:3Ni0Nc1M2GV8xM:http://www.impawards.com/1980/posters/shining_ver2.jpg&t=1
Jack in the gold room - http://thisdistractedglobe.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/shining-1980-jack-nicholson-pic-3.jpg
Here's Johnny - http://captnsblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/jack20heres_johnny.jpg
Danny and his trike - http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Waf0kv0KSWc/SiuZKqbDOUI/AAAAAAAAA30/zGL72vKRXTA/s320/TheShining_danny.jpg