The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick


If you were going to change the name of The Shining, the only acceptable substitute would be Jack Nicholson acting bat-shit crazy and creepy as fuck for 2 and a half hours. The whole movie is just creepy and disturbing from start to finish. There’s a lot of hype about Stanley Kubrick and how crazy he is and how difficult he is as a director but it’s hard to argue with results. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw this movie as a child, I didn’t sleep for like 8 months. There’s not really anything bad to say about this movie so I’ll just talk about some interesting stuff and basically jerk Kubrick off for 7 or 8 hundred words. Everybody knows its awesome and scary.

It’s probably too tough to pick out one feature and say, “this is what made the movie.” So I’ll just discuss some of my favorite parts. The casting was pretty much perfect. Jack Nicholson nails the “descent into madness” role in this film so well. Even though, he’s already just a little off and more than a little creepy at the beginning of the movie, he rides that roller coaster of crazy all the way down at 100 miles per hour. Everything about him is just unsettling. The way he carries himself, that Jack Nicholson tone in his voice. Have you ever seen One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest? That was the best casting job I’ve ever seen. This dude was born to play crazy. There were several other actors under consideration for the role of Jack Torrance too, such as Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Jon Voight and Harrison Ford.


The rest of the little family is really creepy too. The son, Danny, does an awesome job being that slightly psychic, slightly disturbed, slightly too wise for his age little kid. Also the actor’s name is Danny, and that kid improvised the little thing where he moved his finger while he was talking as Tony. “Danny’s not here Mrs. Torrance.” in that scratchy, throaty voice still gets me. Kubrick loved it and they cast him out of over 5000 kids who auditioned. Something about the way he just stares blankly all the time really makes him perfect in that role. Shelly Duvall, who plays Jack’s wife Wendy, does a good job of a. being super creepy, b. stepping up to the plate (no pun intended) and fighting crazy Jack Nicholson while dealing with her son who’s going a bit crazy himself, and c. looking kind of like a frog. Her character is actually pretty interesting. She starts out kind of quite and supportive, but she does a good job of making you feel like she’s tough when she needs to be.

I’ll run you through a brief synopsis but If you haven’t seen this before you should go to Blockbuster and rent it now. I can only confirm the Blockbuster still exists in Colorado, which is coincidentally where this movie takes place. Nicholson (Jack Torrance) gets hired to watch over a swanky hotel in a remote section of the Rocky mountains during the winter while the snow makes it impossible to travel the roads. He brings his wife and son to stay with him while he watches the hotel and attempts to write a book. Danny has a 6th sense sort of ability where he can see things that have happened in the past and some things that are going to happen. The hotel cook senses this in Danny and calls it “Shining.” We soon find out that a bunch of terrible murders have taken place in this hotel and that there is some residual evil force making people do horrible things. These spirits or ghosts or whatever start talking to Jack and Danny and making Jack loose his mind. Several ghosts appear in the hotel and start freaking everyone out. Finally, they make Jack think that Wendy and Danny are a threat to the Hotel and he chases them through the halls of the hotel with an axe tries to chop them up.


Kubrick does an awesome job of building the tension slowly towards the climactic final scenes of the movie. I like that he starts it at about a 3. Some horror movies start off at a zero and then you don’t have the scared feeling until about 20 minutes in. Here, you’re already in that state of mind from the beginning of the opening shot. It’s that famous high helicopter shot of that yellow VW driving through the winding mountain roads on the way to the Overlook Hotel. Just the way this movie is shot screams horror. Everything is dark and brooding and ominous. There are so many famous shots from this movie that are frozen in our memories. Jack chopping through the bathroom door and screaming, “HERE’S JOHNNY.” Danny writing, “REDRUM” on the door with red lipstick and screaming “REDRUM” at his mother in that voice. The twin sisters in the blue dresses. “Come play with us Danny, for ever and ever and ever.” Also I want to briefly mention the score. It’s really perfect for a horror movie. It’s got some of that 60’s/70’s Kubrick-style dark electronic synth music (think 2001: a Space Odyssey but with less drugs and more ghosts), but there’s also some great screeching and scratching sounds. It’s hard to explain in words but the score really adds a lot to the feeling of dread.

I’m predicting a pretty high score for this one.

  1. Is it scary: 10- If you’ve never seen this, I recommend watching it with all the lights on in the middle of the day if you plan on sleeping in the next few days.
  2. Originality: 8- This movie takes the classic haunted house story and twists it into something clever and new.
  3. Blood: 5: It’s not really that bloody but that’s something I like about it. The blood is scarier and more shocking when it’s used sparingly. Or when thousands of gallons of it are pouring out of an elevator.
  4. Believability: 9- Everything in this movie feels authentic to me. The characters do such a good job of making you feel that they’re scared. Except Wendy ran up the stairs. Sorry Stanly, minus 1 point.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 9: There’s really not much to more to say about this. The haunted, isolated, frozen hotel is a perfect horror setting. And the way Kubrick shoots this is nothing short of poetic. Terrifyingly poetic.

Final Score: 41/50