How does the filming help to make ‘The Shining’ an exceptional Horror movie? Essay
How does the filming help to make ‘The Shining’ an exceptional Horror movie?
Stanley Kubrick a.k.a. “The Master Filmmaker,” was born on July 26, 1928 in the Bronx, New York City. By age 13 he had developed passions for jazz, drumming, chess and photography. In 1951 at 23 years of age, Kubrick used his savings to finance his first film, a 16-minute documentary short about boxer Walter Cartier.
On March 7th, 1999, Stanley Kubrick died in his sleep of a heart attack. He was 70 years old.
The Shining is a typical example of the horror genre because it works by arousing irrational fear. Stanley Kubrick uses step down imagery to make the terror in the horror, controlled and not too over whelming for the audience, to make it seem more believable. The horror is a paradox because it presents a vision of terror to the audience but the audience try to fight everything the director is trying to achieve by telling themselves that, ‘it is just a movie, its not real, you can’t scare me.’
The Shining was based on Stephen King’s third published novel, which became a best seller upon its release in 1977. What also makes The Shining such an exceptional horror movie is the way Stanley Kubrick keeps the horror hidden from the audience and like most good horror films, there is always a sense of the supernatural, good vs. evil and a sense of isolation.
Personally I feel that the Shining is a typical horror film because it’s a situation where the victims are isolated from the outside world and there is a mad man or something out of the ordinary killing them, which is true of most horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street, The Ring, Signs, Jeepers Creeper’s 1 and 2 and Dracula.
The camera at the start of the film is moving over a huge mountain pass. We are shown a tiny Volkswagen car driving down a road, the film has many of the most beautiful, atmospheric cinematography, by John Alcott. This scene gives the impression of man’s vulnerability, when seen against the massive powers of nature – a sense of ‘the other’ is also created here by the aerial photography – a dark power looking down on the tiny ‘beetle’.
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is attending a job interview for the position of a winter caretaker at The Overlook Hotel, located in the rockies of Colorado, built on an Indian burial ground. At the beginning of this film Jack conducts himself as a calm, charming man. He goes for the interview looking smart wearing a collar and a tie, shaven and looking very confident. During his interview the camera is films from behind Jack, making it seem as though someone or something is watching Jack – a sense of the ‘other’ and there are some frontal shots in which the background is peach, soft and warm. This presents a comforting, secure atmosphere.
As the movie builds up we begin to release that the Overlook Hotel is not just any other normal Hotel but haunted although the horror is kept hidden from us we just see parts of the supernatural, although as we discover through the movie that this is much more than a mere haunted house tale. One of the things that makes it so interesting is that it shows a wide variety of elements that lead to Jack’s insanity to the point that we are left with the question on our minds whether it really was the house that leads to Jack’s insanity or the isolation for six months, so far from the outside world or Jack’s own psychological make-up or even reincarnation.
We are also told very early in the film, that the hotel has something of a ‘history,’ in summary, some years previously, a crazed-psycho (the ex-caretaker) killed his wife and two children by chopping them up into small pieces with an axe! But once the family settle into the caretaker lifestyle it turns out that Torrance’s wife does most of the ‘caretaking’ while her grouchy husband seeks inspiration for a novel he is writing.
At first everything goes well but as time goes by, he gets increasingly frustrated with his failure to write and takes it out on his wife (Shelly Duvall). Slowly, Jack begins to change he becomes pale, his clothes become rougher looking more like a labourer and becomes more and more irritable & malevolent towards both his wife and son. In the background, their son played by Danny Lloyd also starts having problems of his very own when he starts receiving psychic visions (E.S.P) of twin girls who were murdered a couple of years ago by their father who was also the caretaker at the Hotel and there are warnings from Tony of ‘redrum’ which spells murder when you read it backwards.
It is clear that both Jack and Danny have some form of psychic gift as they are both able to pick-up the Hotel’s own psychic emissions of the horrors that it has seen. The down side is that the visions end up making Jack, go insane. Throughout the movie, the camera follows the action like someone is watching (presence in the Hotel) and there is always a sense of claustrophobia, For example when Danny is cycling in the corridors and he meets the two murdered girls, the camera when he meets them zooms to his face then back to the girls four times and gets closer with each shot then a close up again to Danny then a close up of the girls’ dead bodies four times but not for long so that the audience probably would not find it sickening.
We know that the twin girls are ghosts because there is an axe on the floor and blood, and when talking to Danny they use repetition, “Come and play with us, for ever and ever and ever” which is the Lord’s Prayer. After that scene Jack sees a vision of a lift and when the doors open blood flows like a river, Personally I felt that this was technically clever because it emphasis on the horror aspect.
The scariest moment in the movie is when Jack has gone completely insane and is trying to “correct” his wife and son because he had no real idea what his job as the caretaker there was really till Mr Grady (ex-caretaker) had told him to kill his family because they were trying to damage the house and that his son had brought a coloured cook into the house, the climax of the scariest point is when Jack says “Here’s Johnny” which was rated scariest horror scene out of hundred horror films. This is clever as it uses comedy to make the tragedy seem even more horrific.
The end scene is a shot of Jack, frost-bitten and dead in the snow apparently hours later, is a satisfying and scary ending. But Stanley Kubrick delivers an ultimate conclusion, which Stephen King could never have achieved in his novel. The haunting music begins again, the camera sweeps to a framed photo on the wall, and we see a portrait of a ballroom party from decades ago. After the camera zooms in thrice, Jack is seen in the centre of the photo, and the caption reads, “Overlook Hotel, 1921.” This caption indicates that Jack, or at least his spirit, has always been present in the Overlook Hotel.
Kubrick brilliantly arranges each shot in the film so that the viewer is easily drawn into the story. There is no single scene, shot, or camera angle, which does not denote a deeper meaning or have symbolic value.
This movie is perhaps Stanley Kubrick’s greatest work. I feel that this movie could not have had a better cast, and there is nowhere else in the world where this movie could have been set.
I feel that Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining was absolutely stunning. I also feel that without Jack Nicholson, “The Shining” would have been just another haunted house film. Jack Nicholson’s depiction of a man teetering on the brink of insanity was brilliant. We watch in terror as the insanity slowly settles in and exploding fiercely into this man, transforming him from one who is trying to repair his fragile family life into a stark raving lunatic bent on destroying everything he loves. It is truly a magical movie experience. So I feel that The Shining really is the greatest horror movie ever made.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 24 September 2017
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