The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick

Short Plot Summary:

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.

The Shining (1980) Poster

This may spark some disagreement but I am surprisingly not a big fan of Stanley Kubrick. I feel like I am the type of film fan that would be, but I’m not always as impressed as others seem to be. I think this boils down to the type of story he constructs and the pace of which is set. I also feel like with most of his films (in particular “A Clockwork Orange”) there is a strong sense of trying to appeal overly to counter-culture in society. I have this same problem with Quentin Tarantino sometimes. I feel over pressured to love their work, because there has become a mindset in film communities that you have to love filmmakers like Kubrick if you are a film fan like myself.

Sometimes with filmmakers like Kubrick/Tarantino (and some people may massively disagree with this) I feel like certain types of film fans only enjoy their films because they involve guns, drugs, violence, sex etc. Not because some aspects of their films are brilliant. They become so embraced with the counter-culture appeal the films are laced in that it becomes just “cool” to like them. Films such as “Pulp Fiction” or “A Clockwork Orange” become so huge not because fans admire the filmmaking, but because it becomes a fashion to like them. I have this problem with some Kubrick films, however The Shining is not one of them – it is in-fact my favourite Kubrick film.


The thing I like about The Shining is that it keeps a horrifying sense of being very claustrophobic while offering you all the space you could need. It forces the audience to feel very trapped and enclosed, however if you look at most sequences in the film, they are shot in big empty spaces using wide and tracking shots. This should give you space to move but the most discomforting thing is that it only traps you into this disturbing tale even more. The psychological space of rooms and corridors in the Overlook Hotel is very dark and at times disturbing to see. There is so much room presented that audiences feel belittled by the scale. This is extremely disconcerting and something that The Shining does so well.


The thing that I think makes The Shining even more special is the main performance from Jack Nicholson the film would just not be the same without him. He plays the part in such a psychotic way that his presence on screen is uncomfortable even in his more relaxed scenes. Nicholson’s performance is one of the greats in all of cinema.

The films music by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind is also one of the the best in all cinema. The electronic sounds of the score are so strange and twisted working perfectly with the disturbing imagery. Of course not forgetting the films photography which like so many of Kubrick’s films consist of many tracking wide-shots, this style is not always something I like, but in The Shining it is suited perfectly.


The Shining is truly a film like no other and is absolutely something you should look out for if you haven’t seen it yet. It manages to be so horrifying without being graphic or over the top. It achieves this through its excellent filmmaking and not by appealing to any specific target audience. That is why it is great and why audiences will keep talking about it.

Darrell Ron Tuffs

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5 Replies to “The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick”

  1. The only time I started watching the Shinning, I chickened out and I’m still afraid to watch it.
    That’s the beauty with ‘good’ movies (I’m not so much a fan of Tarintino myself (too much action, it becomes… boring?), but Kubrick, I admit I like his approach on certain aspects in his films) some love them, some less…
    Have you seen Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey? there’s a lote of space there 😉 and personally, I loved it!

  2. The most intriguing aspect of this film is Kubrick didn’t resort to the usual “devices” typically found in horror movies (shadow play, popping out etc.). He created discomfort and anxiety through aesthetic. His talent for manipulating space and creating rooms that shouldn’t otherwise be there is key into understanding why the film is so terrifying There are a thousand reasons why his work is heavily studied by the academic community and why this film is at the top of many essential lists. Def a must see if you haven’t gotten around to it.

  3. The overt horror elements are merely a facade, try to watch it as an artist. It tends to help. 🙂

  4. I think that’s what I’ll do now that it’s been many years since I tried to watch it 🙂

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only person who disliked this film. I thought the book was fantastic and very much disliked the changes made and overall “style” of the movie. Jack Nicholson’s performance is more comical than scary. Saying that, Stephen King himself made a TV series of “The Shining” that stuck rigidly to the book and that was awful as well. Maybe this is a story that just doesn’t translate well to the screen.

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