THE SHINING REVIEW
By Deniz Kaya
The Shining is considered to be one of the best horror classics ever created. And of course, this is said with good reason. The art of Stanley Kubrick, known also for 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut excels yet again, to what can easily be considered, at least in my opinion, his magnum opus.
The plot itself is a story of a family who move for the winter to an abandoned hotel. Evil influences cause the father, Jack, to gradually be driven insane and the son, Danny, is subject to foreboding visions of his past and of his future. Caught in the middle, an intense game of survival ensues for the mother, Wendy.
To make this horror movie truly scary, Kubrick employs a sense of fearful ambiguity throughout, never showing the audience his full hand. The questions that can be asked regarding the events that take place are those which allow us to gain a true sense of fear because unlike horror movies of today’s cinema, there is no predictability to what will happen or even what is happening.
We are given no solid figure to say confirm as our ghost or evil presence, and we aren’t even sure if there are any to begin with. We have no idea whether the events within the film are all just created by Jack , or even if these are just the fantasies of an over-imaginative Danny. In short, it is the intangibility of the true events that occur during the film that make them more scary, as once we have something to fear presented in front of us, a way to see and to defeat it, they are never as scary as they used to be.
These questions are designed to confuse. It is as if we were following the routes on the hotel’s Overlook Maze to reach possible paths to our true conclusion, but with multiple dead ends to contend with along the way.
The cinematography is just as good, yet equally confusing and amazingly fantastical at points. The introduction is probably the most notable, with the slow and steady bird’s eye view of the family travelling on the road. The position of the camera above the family, suggests to us a dominating presence, which, when coupled with the equally unnerving music, suggests to us an inner evil that looks to target the family. The slow pace of the camera that trails the family also gives us an initial sense of their vulnerability. The slow trailing camera is used on Danny later on, as it allows us to follow him through the winding labyrinth of the Overlook Hotel, with repeating patterns of the carpet, giving an increasingly unnerving and disturbing sense of regularity, as well as the fact that Danny is being targeted in particular. Cinematography creates doubt, confusion, expectation of a coming evil and fear and is wonderfully placed within the methodical and slow pace of the events that follow.
The music is designed to disturb the audience and is used as masterful indicators of the tonality of the scene. Within the introduction, the synthesizer plays a repeated, low tune. It sets the scene, the sound of the instrument creating unease and being suggestive of evil. Then later when the more supernatural events of the movie start to occur; the use of TV static, as if there is no character and no life within that which is observed, as with the Twin Sisters. The static gradually crescendos to scare the audience, with the lack of music taking up the entire scene, the volume being invasive to our ears, as the events are to our protagonists. Within tense moments, viewers may also hear the sharp, short sounds of the violin, almost stabbing at our ears, as the violence of the later events are accentuated.
As a final component of the film to mention, is that the film doesn’t keep to traditional scares with a clear antagonist or evil that the viewer needs to be fearful of, but it is instead the ambiguity behind the events that occur that cause this more traditional fear to morph into a different kind of fear altogether. Or as one of the cast members would have put it ‘You do not try to take a photo of the reality, you try to take a photo of the photo of the reality’, perfectly encapsulating the events of the film.
In short, a classic horror movie, created from Stephen King’s classic horror novel, in which we are gifted with a classic horror experience, much more deep and profound than any slasher available for viewing. The cinematography, the music, the visuals, the events and everything in between works hand in hand to not only tell us the story of a family quietly going mad, but also to affect us mentally whilst doing so.