It’s hard to remember exactly when I first saw “The Shining”. I believe it was some time in my early to mid teens. I will, however, never forget the immediate impact it had on me and, as a result, remains to be one of my very favorite Stanley Kubrick films even today. It is often said that, for the bulk of this film, there are four main characters, the first three being the members of the Torrance family and the fourth being the Overlook Hotel itself. I would go further though and say that it is not only the hotel that constitutes the fourth lead, but that coupled with the absolute solitude established throughout most of the film.
Quite frankly, where would this movie be at all without the most subtle yet obvious element of the plot, the solitude, that is with us almost from the get go and upon which the whole tone of the story relies. It is the true genius of this story, and stories like it, that they have us scared before anything happens. Before anyone dies. Before we even really see anything out of the ordinary. The sensation created over several virtually silent, extended scenes, employing great directing, camera work and editing, is the same as that we feel being all alone in an unfamiliar home or other large space at night. It’s fear created by sensory depravation. In daylight we are not quite as concerned with certain dangers as we have a feeling that we could at least more easily see them coming. At night, no matter how old we get, there is always that slight, sneaking fear, or at least caution, of what might be hiding in the next shadow or around that corner, especially in an unfamiliar space.
In this film the same sensation is created, but for a different reason. In order to set the audience up for the later climax, the filmmakers don’t just want you to understand that these people are all alone, they want you to feel it yourself. In this case, the fear doesn’t come from the dark, although that never helps, but from the absolute isolation and the enormous size and complexity of the place in which the story takes place. Once isolation is established and we feel comfortable that we are alone, things like a boy playing with his toys on the floor and a ball rolling slowly to him from an empty hallway become far more unnerving.
“The Shining” is another one of those films that does a great job creating lots of suspense and terror while employing very little violence or horrific imagery. Only two people die in the entire movie and majority of the blood is limited to the visions experienced by the Torrance family, but it manages to keep the suspense going until the very end as well as mixing in a fair amount of frightening and unsettling moments. This movie gets better every time I watch it.
Rating: 5 Stars