Tuesday, 24 November 2015

SPACE ODDITIES: The Shining (1980)

Fig.1. 'The Shining' Poster
Based upon Stephen King's novel, Stanley Kubrick's, 'The Shining' (1980) is a marvellous film that creates tension through uncomfortably long shots and imagery that keep the viewer fixated on the screen, unable to look away from the horror that unfolds before our eyes.
The set design within 'The Shining' is not that of your usual horror flick, dark caves, dimly lit rooms and spooky corridors are no where to be seen, but in some way, they are. 

Fig.2. Film Still

Instead, we are greeted to a beautiful hotel. Lavishly built and full of colour, this hotel is what is extraordinary about this 1980's picture.  'Instead of the cramped darkness and panicky quick editing of the standard-issue scary movie, Kubrick gives us the eerie, colossal, brilliantly lit spaces of the Over Look Hotel (created in Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire) shot with amplitude and calm. It looks like an abandoned city, or the state rooms of the Titanic, miraculously undamaged at the bottom of the ocean' (Bradshaw, 2012) Outcast from society, the hotel stands still, stuck in it's own time and a recluse to the outside world, the Overlook Hotel takes in jack and his family and shelters them from everything and everyone, but not from themselves. 
Acting as a catalyst to the character of Jack' mental stability, we see his mind slowly descending into a well of dark and violent decisions, something that he can't get himself out of. The character of Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is an odd character, his raised angular eyebrows and menacing stares create a sense of un-ease from the very start.

Fig.3. Film Still
With an interior that has the elegance and grace of a 1920's flapper, the  Overlook Hotel which acts as a character in itself, still has to deal with the turmoil that lies within.
The job of the caretaker, taken by Jack, had once been the role of someone else, Delbert Grady.
Delbert Grady became tragically unhinged and losing all sense of humanity he ended the lives of his wife and twin daughters, he then ended his tirade by turning a gun on himself, this is told as a disclaimer during Jack's job interview. Once the job is his and all the guests and workers have left the hotel, Jack and his family are all alone, they have the entire place to themselves, or so they think. In a spree of hallucinations this place of calming and sanctuary becomes a place of horror and disgust.
'Yes it is possible to understand some of the scenes of hallucination. When Jack thinks he is seeing other people, there is always a mirror; he may be talking with himself. When Danny sees the little girls and the rivers of blood, he may be channelling the past tragedy'. (Ebert, 2006)

He might just be channeling the past tragedy of the Grady family, but metaphorically speaking, this river of blood could be a sense of the hotel being it's own human-like character.  Human in a way that the winter (The time in which caretakers are hired) is it's 'time of the month'. The Overlook Hotel is on it's winter-long period. 
'Alive with portent and symbolism, every frame of the film brims with Kubrick's genius for implying psychological purpose in setting: the hotel's tight, sinister labyrinth of corridors; it's cold, sterile bathrooms; the lavish, illusionary ballroom. (Nathan, 2012)

This symbolism is shown within scenes that seem to portray this sense of the hotel being on it's period, so to speak. For example, the river of blood that we see gushing from the doors of the elevators could be a possible, yet quite obvious hint at the hotel menstruating. This can be backed up by the fact that as the day's go by quick jump cuts of this can be seen by the characters in short hallucinations. Jack's family within the hotel, all becoming mentally un-stable and stressed act as one with the hotel, their mental unhinging could be the physical embodiment of the Overlook Hotel's uterus breaking down, as they become increasingly helpless to themselves the hallucinations become stronger and more horrific. Blood, blood and more blood!
The colour red is added to more and more shots as the film reaches it's climactic end. The colour seems to paste the walls, the walls of the bathroom in which Jack comes face to face with Mr Grady, the corridors and even the coat that Jack's wife wears within a short scene in the film.  Not only does it back up this idea of the hotel menstruating but it also adds to the sense of anger and evil that Jack is over come by, like a bull seeing red.


Bradshaw, P. (2012) 'The Shining- Review' At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/nov/01/the-shining-review Accessed on: 24/11/2015

Ebert, R. (2006) 'The Shining' At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-shining-1980 Accessed on: 24/11/2015

Nathan, I (2012) 'The Shining' At: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/shining-2/review/ Accessed on: 24/11/2015


Figure 1. 'The Shining (1980) [Poster] At:http: //thefilmstage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/saul-bass-the-shining-film-poster-1.jpg Accessed on: 24/11/2015

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://images.moviefanatic.com/iu/s--7mUgUEyM--/t_xlarge_l/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_75/v1405713014/the-shining-the-overlook-hotel.jpg Accessed on: 24/11/2015

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: http://www.heyuguys.com/images/2009/10/The-Shining-Blood-Elevator.jpg Accessed on: 24/11/2015


  1. Interesting review Tom, especially the discussion around the human-like character of the hotel and the links to menstruation...

  2. Hey Tom - as discussed, loved this insight into the film and, when you've got a spare moment (!?) check out the theory of 'the abject' in relation to body waste (Julia Kristeva).