The Shining

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jack Torrance arrives at the Overlook Hotel to interview for the position of winter caretaker, with the aim of using the hotel’s solitude to work on his writing. The hotel is built on the site of a Native American burial ground and becomes completely snowed in during the long winters. As a result the Hotel is closed from November to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns him that a previous caretaker developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. Jack’s son, Danny, appears to have ESP and has had a terrifying premonition about the hotel. Jack’s wife, Wendy, tells a visiting doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, and that Jack has given up drinking because he had hurt Danny’s arm following a binge.

The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef Dick Hallorann surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. He explains to Danny that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls “shining”. Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel itself has a “shine” to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay out of room 237.

A month passes; while Jack’s writing project goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel’s hedge maze. Wendy becomes concerned about the phone lines being out due to the heavy snowfall and Danny has more frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts acting strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts.

Danny’s curiosity about room 237 gets the better of him when he sees the room’s door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack, asleep at his typewriter, screaming while in the midst of a horrifying nightmare. After she awakens him, he says he dreamed that he had killed her and Danny. Danny then shows up with a bruise on his neck and visibly traumatized, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing Danny. Jack wanders into the hotel’s Gold Room where he meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him bourbon on the rocks while Jack complains to him about his marriage.

Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her that a “crazy woman in one of the rooms” tried to strangle him. Jack investigates room 237, where he encounters the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue about whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, now filled with ghosts having a costume party. Here, he meets the ghost of the previous caretaker, Grady, who tells Jack that he must “correct” his wife and child, and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann somehow.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Hallorann has a premonition that something is wrong at the hotel and takes a flight back to Colorado to investigate. Danny starts calling out “redrum” frantically and goes into a trance, now referring to himself as “Tony”.

While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers his typewriter; he has been typing endless pages of manuscript repeating “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in different layouts. She is confronted by Jack, who threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She manages to drag him into the kitchen and lock him in the pantry, but this does not solve her larger problem; she and Danny are trapped at the hotel since Jack has sabotaged the hotel’s two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who then unlocks the door, releasing him.

Danny writes “REDRUM” (with the D and second R written backwards) in lipstick on the bathroom door. When Wendy sees this in the bedroom mirror, the letters spell out “MURDER”. Jack begins to chop through the door leading to his family’s living quarters with a fire axe. Wendy frantically sends Danny out through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack then starts chopping through the bathroom door as Wendy screams in horror. He leers through the hole he has made, shouting “Here’s Johnny!”, but backs off after Wendy slashes his hand with a butcher knife.

Hearing the engine of the snowcat Hallorann has borrowed to get up the mountain, Jack leaves the room. He kills Hallorann in the lobby and pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering several ghosts and a huge cascade of blood from an elevator. Meanwhile, Danny walks backwards in his own tracks and leaps behind a corner, covering his tracks with snow to mislead Jack, who is following his footprints. Wendy and Danny escape in Hallorann’s snowcat, while Jack freezes to death in the hedge maze.

In a photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles amid a crowd of party revelers.


For some reason, people keel over from shock when I tell them that I have not seen The Shining. I guess they forget that I am not really a fan of horror and suspense, unless it is from the Golden Age of Hollywood. That being said, persuasive forces, shall we say, in the house convinced me to sit down and watch this tonight, so I appeased them (or else I would have went without food!)

What is this about?

Aspiring novelist Jack Torrance accepts a position as the off-season custodian at an elegant but eerie hotel so he can write undisturbed. But shortly after Jack, his wife and his young son settle in, the ominous hotel wields its sinister power.

What did I like?

Madness. Sakes alive, I hope never end up having to check into the Overlook Hotel. That place apparently will drive even a sane man insane and a little boys’ imaginary friends take over their bodies and commit heinous act. This sounds off kilter, but it is what makes this film such a revered classic. Some have argued that it is the best of the films based on Stephen King’s works (I’m still waiting on The Gunslinger).

Visuals. When you scroll through Netflix looking for something to watch, you may come across a category known as “Visually Striking”. If this ever makes it to instant streaming, it belongs in that category. With the flashes of present day and what has yet to happen, or has it already happened…hmmm….(something you have to watch and determine what I am talking about), as well as the illusion of blood flooding the corridor and the moldy dead body of the woman in the tub, just to name a few examples, once cannot discount how important the visuals are to the telling of this tale. Dare I say this would be a completely different film without them.

Explanation. Have you ever noticed that sometimes a film will have a title that makes you wonder what it has to do with the film? Well, we get an explanation of what The Shining is pretty early on, which sets up the events which happen later on in the film. I won’t go into detail about what it is, but I will say it is a mental “power”, if you will. Could we have made it through the film without an explanation? Perhaps, but I do not believe that would have been a good idea.

What didn’t I like?

Silence. With horror/suspense films, music plays almost as important a role as it does in musicals. I say this because it sets up the atmosphere and the cues can make a huge impact when it comes to how scary a scene can be. The most notorious use of this is in Hitchcock films, especially Psycho. This film incorporates some of those same ideas, as I’m sure Kubrick and many directors since were hugely influenced by Hitchcock’s work and have instructed the film composers to study him, as well. If that be the case, then they do a bang up job. However, the silence does not work for me. It becomes a tad bit irksome, almost like sitting in a room taking a standardized test. You long for some kind of nose be it a pencil dropping, a bird chirping, someone’s stomach growling, a fart, anything. That is how grating the silence is to me, personally, but others may not feel as strongly.

Snapped. Jack Nicholson has played a plethora of characters over the years, but I think this is one of his most well-known. As I was watching, I think I missed the point where he started to descend into madness. It appeared as if he just suddenly went from being a normal guy, who was getting nagged a but by his wife, to a stark, raving mad lunatic. The guy just snapped, which is well and good, except for the fact that this film seems to do all it can to make sure everyone is extremely well-developed and there is a reason for every action.

Maze. While out in the maze, I couldn’t help but thing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I guess since they both take place in hedge mazes and such. What didn’t I like about this maze, though? Well, near the end, when the creepy little kid is being chased, apparently running on pure adrenaline, and he seemingly has no problem navigating through there…in the dead of night with little to no light! Unless he is some kind of genius or just happened to remember the directions he went when his mom took him out there, this should not be happening! I guess filmmakers will do anything to avoid killing a child on-screen, though, even bending reality.

For a film that is this highly revered, I was not blown away by The Shining. Yes, it was a very good film and many parts were entertaining but, I dunno, I guess I was just expecting something…more. Personal expectations aside, I can say that this is a film that is worth watching and give it a high recommendation. Aside from a few minor issues, there isn’t much negative to say about this film. It does start a bit slow and is on the long side, however. Give this a shot sometime, if you’re in mood for Stephen King horror.

4 out of 5 stars


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