By Romeo Gar (New York)
The Shining is one of cinema’s most mysterious and haunting experiences. It’s a film that plays so well to wild speculation because it never shows its full hand. Many horror movies have these seemingly unstoppable monsters but then there always comes that seen where they explain how to beat them or why they’re doing it, and afterwards they’re never as scary because they become this tangible thing. Though The Shining is meticulously littered with hints and clues towards the nature of its true intentions, it can never be fully explained or understood, and you always fear what you don’t understand.
On the surface level, this film is about a writer and his family who move into a remote hotel in the mountains to take care of it over the winter, except sometime in there stay Jack (the father) snaps and tries to kill them both. It sounds simple, but it’s not at all presented in such a clear-cut manner. Did Jack plan to kill his family the whole time? Or was he possessed by some evil force within the hotel? When does Jack actually snap? Is this movie really about the Native Americans being slaughtered by the Europeans? Is this movie about how Kubrick faked the moon landing? Are the events in the movie actually happening with in Jack’s book that he successfully publishes? There are so many paths and threads to follow that you’ve become lost in this maze of thoughts and Ideas.
One of the most terrifying elements of the movie is how realistically envelops the viewer in this scenario of domestic abuse. Wendy and Danny are snowbound in this hotel with Jack. Like many children and women are trapped in these horrible abusive relationships and as a viewer you’re saying what are you doing get out! But it’s never that easy. Slavery, the holocaust, Native American, genocide all of this wickedness is in the past yet we feel its repercussions today “White man’s burden, Lloyd, white man’s burden” (quote from movie that Jack says).
Just as horror movies provided this thrill ride sense of escapism, perhaps the apparitions Danny sees are just figments of his imagination to distract him from the very real things happening around him. This idea of an invisible, looming evil is deeply disturbing. You have this scene where Jack is typing his novel, which is unbearably tense, because once you know what he is typing there and you see Wendy walking towards him. And she’s so sweet in this movie, and so oblivious to what is happening right in front of her and right in when she’s front of him Jack just says “hi” making you thinks he’s all fine after giving her a loving kiss on the forehead.
The Shining is more interested in concepts and images than flimsy jump scares. The camera sticks to Danny as he explores through the labyrinth like halls of the outlook hotel. Allowing your mind to wander as you gaze into this impenetrable, supernatural place. You start building this familiarity with the hotels cryptic layout, while your mind fills the empty rooms with darker thoughts. Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Neilson, Joe Turkel, Phillip Stone. Every single role, is just perfectly casted hear. Everything the characters are going through is internalised. You know, it’s psychological, so to balance this, you have this maniacal all most down right evil performance by Jack Nicholson. He’s able to convey so much with just his face alone, that you can’t take your eyes off him of one second. We the viewer can’t see this faceless evil controlling Jack, but maybe we can hear it.
Right from the opening scene this electronic origin suggests an evil force that’s all ways there and invisible at the same time watching us almost like the trees themselves are screaming back. Kubrick, being a huge fan of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Employs a similar technique of a droning, ominous soundtrack filling the seats and air with dread, never allowing the audience breathe. The hotel seduces Jack with this reliving melody, while transforming the image of his loving family into this horrible oppressive noise.
Then, this fucking avant-garde nightmare orchestra starts stabbing you with violins. It just leaves you saying, “Come on, just get out… WHAT ARE YOU DOING? RUN! He’s right there!!” And then it’s over. And you’re left with this final lingering shot of the hallway leading to the Gold Room, a room we’ve past so many times in the film. And you see a wall, full with black and white photographs from a different time, and in the center of them all a lively party, and in front of a sea of people, Jack Torrance, inviting us in dated July 4th, 1921. The answer to the riddle, in plain sight.