Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Film Review: The Shining

Fig 1: Poster of The Shining, featuring an iconic shot of Jack Torrance bursting thought the bathroom door

Directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1980 and based loosely on the Steven King book of the same name, The Shining demonstrates the doesn't to madness of an already unhinged man, trapped in an hotel with his family up in the snowy mountain side of Colorado. While King himself stated that he hated the film as an adaptation of his book for being unfaithful to the original source material, the film is a settlement of popular culture, alongside other Kubrick films like 2001: A Space Odyessey. The use of colour, the nonsensical environment of "The Overlook Hotel", how some events in the film just don't make sense yet somehow fit in with the madness that takes over the mind of Jack Torrance throughout the film. While being classed as a horror, The Shining, is completely different from other horror movies of its time. The Overlook Hotel is bright, colourful, and vast, geometric shapes frame the carpets and walls and the setting dwarves characters which gives a sense of menace."The image is a harmless one, and still Kubrick makes it chilling." (Janet Maslin)The use of bright reds connotes violence, danger and power, which relates to Jack and his decent to madness. Sickly greens and yellows are also used prominately throughout the film, giving off a sickly and disturbing feel and the courtyard of the hotel in the climax of the film is lit with a mellow blue light, its cool nature contrasting to the warm and bloody insides of the hotel's interior. These uses of bright and bold colours, are the complete opposite of what is expected of other horror films, lacking the cold, dark colour palette other films of the same genre possess. The sleek gloss on the warm walls give a sense of The Overlook being a living being. None of the architecture of The Overlook makes any sense, windows are in places they shouldn't be, hallways overlap to different rooms (such as in Danny's third tricycle ride around the first floor). Some scenes are seemingly placed in the film at random, the bear man giving another man a blow job is not explained and neither are the hallucinations of the blood filled hallway and as to why Jack in in the photo at the end of the film. Kubrick doesn't bother given an explanation to these scenes, leading to more confusion for the viewer and questioning over whether or not everything in the film was from the point of madness. Instead focusing on whats in the scene, how it is formed over explaining why he featured it in the first place. 
"...themes and plot, as with many Kubrick films, are in service of the filmic form, not vice versa. In other worlds, themes in The Shining arise due to Kubrick's almost fastidious concentration on form" (Eric Henderson)

The film starts with an establishing shot tracking a yellow car as it goes through the country side until it reaches the Overlook Hotel in the mountains. Transitioning to the inside of the hotel, writer Jack Torrance waits for his interview with Ullman, the hotel's manager, to talk about the position he wants of winter caretaker. He gets the job and proceeds to tell his wife, Wendy, about the good news. Their son, Danny says that he doesn't want to go to the hotel and when his mother inquires into the reason why he feels like this due to a premonition he had (because of his psychic abilities that are manifested in his "imaginary friend", Tony) earlier of blood pouring into one of the hallways of the mansion terrifying him of what might happen if they go.
Despite Danny's concerns, the family goes to the Overlook anyway, and are given a tour of the facility before being given the key to the place. The Jack and Wendy, tour the hotel with Ullman telling them about the history of the place, being built on Native American land and about the case of Charles Grady, a previous caretaker to the hotel who went mad and butchered his family before taking his own life. Danny, who is staying in the game room playing darts, turns to see twins staring at him wanting to play, until Wendy distracts him by calling him over to tour.

Fig 2: Movie cap of the twin sisters were murdered by their father a year before the events of the film 

Wendy and Danny tour the kitchen with head chef Richard Halloran. Danny comments as to how the man somehow knows of his nickname "Doc", to which Richard explains that he knows of the boys psychic abilities of seeing into the future as he too has a similar thing that he has come to know "The Shining". Before he leaves, Halloran also warns Danny about the room 237, saying that the room is a bad influence due to the history it has been through.
At the start of the family's time living in the Overlook, everything is relatively normal. Jack starts on his novel, Wendy keeps the place in working condition by cooking and maintaining the radio and boiler functions, and Danny spends his days rolling around in the hallways on his tricycle. One day when he goes around upper floor he turns into a yellow corridor and sees the two twins from before
As time goes by, cabin fever sets in for Jack as he becomes bored and irritable, not being able to leave the hotel's grounds due to a heavy snow storm that cut of the phone line. He stares blankly out the window to Wendy and Danny playing in and around the maze, before the scene cuts to black.
Later on Danny is playing with a few toy trucks something catching his attention, leading him into room 237. Wendy finds him later on with a red mark around his neck. She confronts Jack about it, to which is says that he didn't hurt Danny. Annoyed at his wife's accusations, Jack stumbles upon the Gold Room lounge area and asks for a drink from the bartender Lloyd.

Fig 3: Movie cap of Danny riding around the Overlook

Later on, Wendy tells Jack of a woman that Danny saw in room 237 and how she thinks that they should remove their son from the building. Jack goes to investigate the room only to stumble upon a nude lady having a bath who proceeds to kiss him only to reveal that the young woman is actually a waterlogged old lady. Jack stumbles out of the room and tells Wendy that there was nothing to worry about in that room despite her concerns over their son's safety. Annoyed and frustrated at his wife and son, Jack heads to the Gold Room again requesting a drink. There he bumps into Gaudy, the previous caretaker of the Overlook, who is dress as a waiter and accidentally spills drink down Jack's clothes. Leading him into the connected red bathroom, Gaudy starts to clean jack up while also explaining that he needs to correct his wife and son just like he did to his daughters and wife.
Wendy, wandering in the main hall where Jack does his writing, takes a peek of his work so far, only to find dozens and dozens of lines upon pages on the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". From the sheer amount of pages it seems as tho he has been feeling this way long before the drama with Danny and room 237 happened. As she continues to read in shock at her husband's decline in sanity, she doesn't notice Jack entering the room. Wendy pleads with him that the Overlook isn't the right thing for them to which Jack refuses getting more and more hostile and unhinged as the scene goes on. Forcibly backing up the stairs in an attempted to get away from her husband, Wendy, who is absolutely terrified, starts swinging a baseball bat she picked up at Jack, until she hits him over the head, flinging him down the stairs unconscious. She then locks him in the Food Storage and plans for her's and Danny's escape, however Jack has sabotaged any means of them contacting the outside through the two way radio and the snow mobile, effectively trapping them inside.
Later on, Jack escapes with the help of Gaudy, while Danny, who lets Tony take over, writes the words REDRUM on the door in the family's assigned room. Wendy looks at the mirror in horror to see that when read backwards, REDRUM is MURDER. Jack turns up with an axe and starts to break down the entrance to the room. Wendy and Danny flee into the bathroom, opening the window, Wendy gets her son out of there but is unable to escape herself. Trapped in the bathroom, Wendy is trembling in fear and Jack makes his way over and starts hacking at the bathroom door. With the knife she took from the kitchen, she slashes at Jack just as he makes his way into the bathroom, he backs off and leaves the room, hunting for Danny.
On his way to out of the hotel, Jack comes across Halloran, who came to the Overlook, through a thick and dangerous snow storm due to being concerned over the family. Jack quickly puts an end to the chef, hitting him in the chest with his axe, and continues to stagger outside to the maze. Danny runs into the maze with Jack quickly on his trail thanks to the footsteps the boy leaves behind. When he reaches the middle of the maze, Danny realises how his Father is about to follow him so fast due to how clear his footprints are in the snow. To counteract this, he covers up his prints so that when Jack arrives, it looks as though Danny just disappeared while the boy is able to escape out of the maze to his mother. The two take Halloran's car and drive away from the hotel, leaving Jack stranded, bloodied, injured and frostbitten inside the maze, where he ends up freezing to death.
The last scene of the film, is a slow zoom into a photo taken inside the Gold Room, full of guests and workers, Jack Torrance is in the middle holding a sign saying "July 4th 1921".

Fig 4: Final shot of the film questioning Jack's true identity and relation to the hotel

The acting in the film is phenomenal, all of the main characters act realistically to the trauma they go through, perhaps due to Kubrick demanding scenes to be done over and over to get that perfection he desired even if it was tiring on the actors. Most notable in this was his treatment of Wendy's actress, Shelley Duvall, as he was much more critical of her acting scared for her life in the ending scenes. Through this harshness in directing her performance stands out as being the most real of all the characters, especially for the scenes were Wendy is being chased by a crazed Jack. As stated here by Roger Ebert in his review,"Kubrick delivers this uncertainty in a film where the actors themselves vibrate with unease. There is one take involving Scatman Crothers that Kubrick famously repeated 160 times. Was that "perfectionism," or was it a mind game designed to convince the actors they were trapped in the hotel with another madman, their director? Did Kubrick sense that their dismay would be absorbed into their performances?" Kubrick  repeated every shot to ridiculous extremes, resulting in the actors being tired enough to let their raw emotions come through their performance.

Janet Maslin-
Eric Henderson-
Roger Ebert-
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