The Shining (1980) #filmreview #themightydragonhalloween

IMDb gave this movie 8.4/10 – but it’s 10/10 to me – after all it’s a combination of three geniuses in their field; Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King and Jack Nicholson.  

Although the finished movie was not to the author King’s liking, it’s overwhelmingly popular with a generation of horror film fans. I simply do not know where to start in terms of praise and critique.

One thing that has always impressed me about Kubrick is that he decided to live in the UK rather than Hollywood, which I have read he felt disillusioned with. I wonder what effect this transition had on his films, would they have been different if he was based elsewhere? Or did 1960’s England offer Kubrick something else, something fulfilling, in terms of creativity. 

I must admit, I find Kubrick as fascinating as his movies, especially A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket and, of course, The Shining. 

SPOILER ALERT:  If you are the one person in the world not to have seen The Shining and possibly would like to, then please do not read on. As usual, this is my opinion and I am not a Kubrick aficionado – although I hope one day to have that title.


We know we are in for a treat with the opening, expansive scenes at the start of the movie as the car winds its way to the Overlook Hotel. Eerie music accompanies us as we arrive into the bustling hotel, staff packing up and a keen Jack Torrance arrives for an interview to look after the place during the winter.

He has a writing project that he can start in the solitude of the hotel, with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall)  and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) joining him for an adventure away from their past.

It’s quite evident early on that this family is completely disjointed, Wendy seems a little terrified of Jack, an ex-alcoholic, there’s certainly an underlying contempt between the couple.  You can’t but think that they fell out of love a long time ago. We learn more about the family dynamic after Danny is warned about the impending trip to the hotel by his imaginary friend Tony, the boy that “lives in his mouth”. A prior incident between Danny and Jack caused the boy a dislocated shoulder and Jack to ditch the booze. 

The child psychologist who visits them states she believes Danny falls into a “self induced trance” but Wendy’s explanation of the traumatic incident from Jack’s side made me feel she was trying to convince herself rather than anyone else that it was an accident and Jack, now, a reformed person.

I simply love the way that the hotel manager, Stuart Ullman, tells Jack about the tragedy events of the winter 1970.  Like Jack, Charles Grady arrived at the hotel with his family to become the caretaker. Stuart Ullman tells us, quite matter of fact, that Grady had a mental breakdown because of “cabin fever” and killed his family with an axe. Jack Torrance replies “Well, that’s not going to happen to me”. Yeah right.

On the family trip to the Overlook, there is already tension in the car, especially with Danny and Jack as they talk about the Donner party, a group of US pioneers who had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Wendy warns Jack that this may upset Danny, but Danny “had seen it on TV”. Jack’s irritation is evident on his already pissed-off face “It’s ok, he saw it on the television”. Sarcasm and tension, right there. 

Danny play’s darts while the couple are shown their duties around the house. This is the first time he encounters the weird, blue-dressed girls that none of us would ever want to meet. They hold hands and walk away. Eep.

Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), the hotel chef, greets the couple and takes Wendy and Danny to see the kitchen area. The walkway to the kitchen is almost as winding as the maze outside. More of that later.

We learn that Hallorann can talk to Danny telepathically, he was picked up by Wendy asking him how he knew Danny’s nickname was “Doc”. Anyway, he asks Doc for some ice-cream “how would you like some ice-cream Doc” all from mind to mind communication. When the two are left alone eating their ice-cream Hallorann explains that the ability is called “shining”, something that he and his Grandma used to do and didn’t realise others could do. 

He asks Danny if Tony has warned him against the hotel, Danny responds asking about Room 237. Hallorann strongly warns Danny to stay away. Of course, we know he won’t.

As Danny whizzes around the hotel corridors in his tricycle. Wendy delivers Jack his breakfast on a silver tray, “Done them how you like them, sunny side up”. Jack moans he has plenty of ideas but just no good ones. She tries to help, but you can see the contempt he has for her already.

As mother and son walk around the maze, Jack stares in the replica maze in his office, he’s losing it. 

Wendy opens the biggest tin of fruit cocktail in the kitchen as she hears on the TV that a snowstorm is headed their way. Danny finds room 237 on his tricycle, tries the door, but it’s locked and he scarpers away. 

This next scene every writer has sympathy with the devil. Jack, the writer, attempts to write and his wife interrupts him. He blows up “Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you’re breaking my concentration. You’re distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?”

Jack Torrance, I agree, I sympathise. Even when writing this blog piece I have been asked about a pumpkin, jumped on by a cat and had a deck of cards thrown at me.

Back to the story, she is shaken and scared of him. However, she heads off to find the radio in Ullman’s office “KDK12 calling KDK1, over”. KDK1 explains the lines are down as the wind howls outside over the deep fresh snow. This brings the family more isolation and tension.

Danny meets again the sisters “hello Danny, come and play with us, come and play with us Danny, for ever and ever and ever”. Danny slaps his hands over his eyes, his fingers parting to see if they’re still there. “Tony, I am scared” Tony responds “It isn’t real”.

Later Danny goes to get his fire engine from his room, Wendy warns him not to disturb Jack. Jack is already in the room, weary and exhausted. Later we see Danny playing on the carpet with his cars in his Apollo jumper (Kubrick conspiracy theorists are linking this with the moon landing footage that Kubrick allegedly filmed), this results in Danny being enticed into the forbidden room.

Wendy finds Jack at his desk, confused after a nightmare of him killing the family. Danny appears, jumper ripped and his neck marked. Wendy, furious, blames Jack and she walks off with Danny. 

Favourite scene…. Jack walks into the Gold Room, he would “sell his goddamn soul for a glass of beer”. Lloyd appears behind the bar. Jack laments he has had five miserable months on the wagon and refers to Wendy as “the sperm bank upstairs”. He goes on to tell Lloyd about how he was heavy handed with Danny, as Lloyd pours him bourbon on the rocks – “white man’s burden”.  Wendy bursts in telling him that an old woman in a bath in the hotel attacked Danny. 

Hallohann at his home in Florida senses trauma at the hotel. Can I just give a shout out to the pic above Hallohann’s TV, seems he was a saucy chef.

As Jack enters Room 237, it’s interspersed with shots of Danny dribbling – incredible acting by such a young kid. Jack meets the beauty in the bathtub, but as he grabs hold of her for a kiss, he has a handful of old, wrinkly butt. He later tells Wendy “he didn’t find anything out at all”. She wants to get Danny out of there and this sparks him off. He, to me, was his last turning point before the madness ensued.

Jack goes back to the bar and finds a party going on, I love the way he nonchalantly eats the peanuts. He bumps into Grady, who drops advocaat on him. He takes him off to the bathroom to clean him off.

This scene was absolutely EPIC. As Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) washes Jack off, he tells Jack that “you’ve always been the caretaker here’. What?! British actor, Philip Stone, is perfect in the scene “I should know sir, I’ve always been here’. He goes onto talk Jack into “correcting them’, that’s Wendy and Danny. He also alerts Jack that Hallorann is on his way to protect Danny.

Tony seems to have inhabited Danny’s body as he mutters “REDRUM”, as well all know, the reverse for “MURDER”. Hallorann leaves for Denver and Wendy finds Jack not by his typewriter as she picks up the pages.

“All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy” – this is typed on multiple pages in many styles.  I would love to know whose job this was… as there were hundreds of pages.

He creeps up behind her and she backs off up the stairs, swinging the baseball bat. We are led to believe that Wendy is the weakest woman in the world, the way she swings her bat and her soft voice asking him to stay away. But we couldn’t be more wrong. Mrs Torrance takes a swing and knocks her old man out cold, and then she drags him to the storage room and locks him up.

She finds Jack has disconnected the radio and also screwed up the snowcat so there is no chance of escape for her and Danny. 

Hallorann makes his way to the hotel.

Something now happens which I do not understand, Wendy is asleep (!) – how? If I had just knocked out my insane husband with a baseball bat and dragged him into a room to lock him away from harming the family, the last thing I would be is asleep.  Anyway, back to the story, she wakes as Danny writes REDRUM on the door and she looks in the mirror to see the true meaning.  Danny seems to reappear, rather than Tony. 

Jack starts smacking the door with the axe “Wendy, I’m home”, she manages to get Danny through the window, but it’s too small for her to get through. She shouts out for Danny to run and hide. Jack’s little pig’s speech accompanies him as he starts chopping at the bathroom door, and we hear “Here’s Johnny”.

Hallorann’s snow plough arrives at the Overlook, heard by both Wendy and Jack. This bides her some time as this distracts Jack, who shuffles off to lay his axe in Hallorann’s chest. 

In her search for Danny, Wendy comes across the man and bear scene. Another guest toasts “great party isn’t it”. We now have the famous blood pouring out the wall scene. Wendy scarpers.

Jack following the footsteps of Danny follows him out to the maze. Danny outsmarts his old man by retracing his footprints and finding Wendy and fleeing.  

Jack slumps and freezes. 

The last shot of the photo on the wall of the party in the Gold Room. Grady was right, Jack was always the caretaker.

Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall have said this was the toughest movie they have ever been in. By all accounts Shelley Duvall was pushed to her limits by Kubrick in what seems cruel treatment, Angelica Houston said Jack Nicholson would pass out exhausted every day.  

What limits would any actor have endured to work with the master?

Is this your favourite Kubrick film? Is this your favourite horror film? If not, I bet it’s high on your list.


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