Film / The Shining

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HERE'S JOHNNY!!!

The Shining is a 1980 horror film loosely based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is an alcoholic writer who takes a job as a winter caretaker for the old and luxurious Overlook Hotel, which every winter becomes completely snowed in. He brings along his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd).

As time passes, strange things start happening: Danny discovers he has psychic powers and starts receiving odd visions. In the meantime, Jack starts becoming more and more unstable: he had been warned that the previous caretaker snapped and killed his family, but that wouldn't happen again... right?

In a serious case of either Tempting Fate or Paranoia Fuel, The Shining is screened every year at midwinter for those "wintering-over" at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, alongside The Thing. The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which inspired King's novel, has a channel on their cable TV that plays the film twenty-four hours a day.

Some interpretations of the film's themes are explored in the Documentary, Room 237.

Not to be confused with the Shining Series of videogames.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie cuts most of the exposition and backstory, as well as the context for some scenes, such as the true nature of Danny's imaginary friend Tony (in the book he's Danny from the future), the woman in Room 237 and the two men in masquerade costumes Wendy sees while searching for Danny. The movie is arguably better for it, as it would be difficult to properly convey these in a visual medium, as the later mini-series remake would prove.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Wendy and Jack are blonde in the novel, but have dark hair in the movie.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: See Mythology Gag below.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Mr Ullman is a condescending, overbearing Smug Snake who epitomises everything Jack hates about authority figures and makes it clear that he doesn't want Jack at the hotel. In the film, he is very friendly, polite and completely approves of Jack as the caretaker.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book Jack is a loving husband and father (but still recovering from alcoholism) made vulnerable to the hotel's influence by demons. In the film, his seething resentment of his family is played up a hundredfold, made obvious from the very beginning, and almost completely removes the positive traits and the struggle against evil of his character, making him more of a Villain Protagonist.
  • Adult Fear:
    • In the climax where crazed Jack goes after Danny outside in the heavily snowed-in hedge maze with the full intent of killing his own son. What makes this worse it that Wendy is inside the house desperately searching for Danny, and has absolutely no idea where he is.
    • Also, mid-film, when Danny appears with a huge bruise on his neck, and tells his mother that a crazy stranger strangled him.
  • Affably Evil: Grady and Lloyd the bartender.
  • Alien Geometries: The layout of the hotel makes no sense whatsoever. Stuart Ullman's office has a nice big window in the middle of the building; the Colorado Room has multiple floor to ceiling windows with a mystery hallway behind them. The hotel interiors have nice right angles while the outside doesn't. The freezer flips sides of the hallway between shots. The spaces between the doorways in Room 237's hallway are far too small to actually contain any rooms of that size. This was done deliberately for dramatic/horror effect.
  • The Alcoholic: Jack. At one point he bemoans the fact that there is no alcohol to be had, and then Lloyd appears at the bar and serves him some whiskey...
  • All There in the Manual: At the end, when Jack is lost in the maze, his words appear to be unintelligble roars. But the closed captions reveal that he is actually trying to call for help, in which case the Wham Shot of him frozen to death in the snow makes a lot more sense in context.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Probably one of the most famous examples in recent years of horror film history, and one that still garners discussion and interpretation to this day. As if Danny exiting the maze, reuniting with Wendy, and escaping the hotel while Jack freezes to death in the maze wasn't enough, the film hits you with one last image: a picture of the July 4th hotel ball in 1921...that has Jack in it.
  • Angrish: An Ax-Crazy Jack Torrance falls into these near the end of the movie when he is reduced to only being able to moan like a wounded animal.
  • Arc Words: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
  • Asshole Victim: Arguably, Jack and even Grady are both victims of the Overlook.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jack is perhaps the iconic example of this trope in film toward the end, when he tries to murder his wife and son with an axe.
    • Not to mention Grady before him, who unfortunately succeeded in carrying out his rampage.
  • An Axe to Grind / Axe Before Entering: One of the most famous examples, played straight but also turned Up to Eleven in that, while Jack is hacking his way through the door, the camera follows the motion of the axe, thereby briefly making the axe a POV character.
    • Real Life Writes the Plot: At least in the set design for that scene. The props department originally built a door that could be easily broken, but Jack Nicholson - who had worked as a volunteer fire marshal - was able to smash through it far too quickly. A much stronger door was used in order to slow him down.
  • Background Halo: Inverted with the black chandeliers, which gave Jack a "black halo" post-snap.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Again, the axe scene.
  • The Bartender: Lloyd.
  • Batter Up: A memorable scene in which Wendy whacks Jack over the head with a bat.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. Hallorann spends some time travelling back to the Overlook, only to have his grand rescue cut short when he gets an axe to the chest courtesy of Jack, only a few minutes after he arrives. The fact that he brought a vehicle allows Wendy and Danny to escape, however.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Hallorann, axed by Jack.
  • Bloody Horror: One of the iconic images from this film is the scene with an elevator full of blood pouring out and flooding a hallway.
  • Burning the Ships: Slowly being possessed, Jack disables the ham radio (the family's only means of calling for help) and their snowmobile (their only means to leave the hotel).
  • Central Theme: Kubrick included a lot of Native American imagery, as well as stories of the hotel having to fight off Native Americans for being built on an Indian Burial Ground. Jack throws his ball against the Native American tapestry as well. Danny defeats Jack with an old Native American trick.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Danny walks through the maze with his mother near the beginning of the film and reaches the center. It comes in handy later on when he is being chased through the maze by a deranged, axe-wielding Jack. Danny is able to make a false trail to throw Jack off and retrace his steps to escape the maze, knowing that Jack is following his footprints.
  • Color Motif: The Overlook is brimming with this. Primary palettes for the hotel itself include various shades of red/deep (almost brown) red, orange, yellow, green, and blue/steel-blue. Danny and Wendy are also dressed in almost identical bright blue and red-patterned clothes.
  • Coordinated Clothes: The creepy sisters wear the same light blue dresses with pink ribbons. The identical look multiplies the creep out factor.
  • Creepy Twins: Grady's daughters are arguably one of the most famous examples, the Trope Codifier, and provide the trope's image. Actually, they are specifically described in both book and film as not twins (ages 8 and 10) but in the movie they were played by real-life twin actresses.
  • Daylight Horror: As horrific as it is, there are few scenes that are literally dark. It's a well-lit movie.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Implied to be the case with the ghosts, with the Overlook merely assuming their forms. Grady, for instance, starts off kindly and incredibly cordial, but the moment Jack recognises him and mentions the murder of his wife and children at his hands, his entire demeanour changes and starts radiating pure malevolence.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Grady advises Jack that Wendy and Danny should be "corrected". With an axe.
  • Deal with the Devil: Hinted at in the bar scene. Jack says he'd give his soul for a drink; cue creepy bartender appearing with a full stock of booze.
  • Death by Adaptation: Dick Hallorann.
  • Dissolve: Used extensively to transition between shots.
  • Doing In the Wizard: To a certain extent, downplaying the more overtly supernatural elements of the novel. Kubrick's version gives the impression that Jack was well on the way to Ax-Crazy before the Overlook got hold of him.
  • Duality Motif: The film uses a lot of this, with mirror reflections, opposites (renovated/modern vs. retained/original rooms) and symmetrical items such as double-doors, to reinforce the dual-nature of the hotel (which is practically a character itself) as well as Jack Torrance with his inner demons.
  • Eldritch Location: The hotel itself. Judging by the film's Ambiguous Ending with the 1921 photograph featuring Jack, it seems that the hotel has made Jack's soul a part of it and has put him into a cycle of being reincarnated, going on a murderous rampage, dying, and being reborn again.
  • Evil Brit: Delbert Grady.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Even if you knew nothing about Jack Nicholson before seeing this movie, you'd still be able to guess what's going to happen to him just by looking at his eyebrows alone, to the point where King objected to the casting of Nicholson and begged Kubrick to reconsider.
  • Evil Laugh / Laughing Mad: Jack lets out several during the course of his breakdown, such as the little creepy chuckle he gives out after he says "I'm gonna bash [your brains] right the fuck in!" to Wendy.
  • Fan Disservice: The hot girl in the bathroom. She appears fully naked and upfront, yet it still looks creepy rather than sexy. On top of that, she turns into a rotten naked old corpse-woman who cackles in the creepiest manner possible!
    • The shots of her naked are also inter cut with shots of Jack's psychotic face, which would be a real mood killer even if the scene wasn't already creepy.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jack after he snaps. His politeness to his wife and son (calling Wendy his "love" and the "light of [his] life" as well as telling Danny that he'd never hurt him) don't seem to help as his mental state gets worse.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Foregone Conclusion:
  • Gainax Ending: The ambiguity of the final image presented by the film (a picture of a July 4th hotel ball in 1921 that has Jack among the crowd) has been the source of lots of interpretations.
  • Gaslighting: The film does this to the viewer in a number of subtle ways, from disappearing/reappearing furniture to the Alien Geometries mentioned above. It adds to the mazelike quality of the Hotel, increasing the tension.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Allegedly Kubrick told the MPAA that the torrent rushing out of the elevators was rusty water and not blood in order to get the movie's trailer shown. At the time the MPAA did not allow blood to be depicted in trailers.
  • Hedge Maze: The Overlook has an iconic one not present in the book, the perfect place for a scary chase scene. There is also a scale model inside the hotel.
  • History Repeats: From the start of the film, during his interview for the winter caretaker job, Jack is warned that the last guy who took the job murdered his family and then himself. Take three guesses as to what happened to Jack over the course of the film...
    • Taken up a notch with the iconic final image, a cryptic photograph dating back to 1921 which has Jack in the foreground. Interpretations have come to conclusions commonly fitting under the idea that Jack has been absorbed into the hotel along with all the other ghostly 'guests' in the picture, and the Jack we see in the movie is a reincarnation.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The Overlook is built on one. In 1987 San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bill Blakemore penned a rather intriguing essay arguing that the film is a hidden commentary on the genocide of the American Indian.
  • I Never Told You My Name: When Hallorann calls little Danny Torrance "Doc", his parents ask how he knew that's what they call him. Hallorann answers by saying Danny just looks like a Doc, but the real reason is that Danny and Hallorann both share a psychic ability, "the Shining".
  • Jump Scare:
    • The famous image of Jack frozen to death comes up suddenly out of nowhere accompanied by a Scare Chord after Jack slumps to the ground in the maze.
    • When Hallorann walks down the empty lobby hallway, everything is silent...until a yelling Jack suddenly emerges from behind one of the pillars and plunges his axe into Hallorann's chest.
  • Kensington Gore: Enough to float sofas down the corridor. Executive Meddling almost cut it, but Kubrick told them it was just rusty water.
  • Kubrick Stare: Jack, naturally, as his sanity begins to wane. He even dies with this expression.
  • Large Ham: Jack Torrance, summed up by "Jack Nicholson hardly does a subdued performance" + "Evil Is Hammy". (Steven Spielberg first stated to Kubrick he felt Nicholson was too over-the-top. Kubrick replied by comparing him to James Cagney)
  • Legacy Character: Jack has always been the caretaker, according to Grady.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Wendy locks herself in the bathroom to hide from the now (literally!) Ax-Crazy Jack. The lock holds. The door doesn't.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
    • "REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM!"
  • The Maze: The Overlook Hedge Maze. Wendy and Danny are shown exploring through it midway through the movie, giving Danny an advantage in the finale as he flees the insane Jack through it, trapping his father there until the possessed man freezes to death.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The film is more ambiguous towards the supernatural aspects of the story. However, the titular "Shining" is equally effective in both the film and the book - warning clearly of danger seconds before the axe hits the bathroom door.
  • Mind Screw: Pick any moment of this movie. ANY. The entire concept of the hotel itself is this trope, as there are doors that lead to nowhere, room layouts that make no sense, and overall impossible building structure.
  • Mirror Scare:
    • Used in the scene with the naked woman, crossed with The Mirror Shows Your True Self. As Jack is caressing and kissing the woman, he looks into the mirror and is horrified to find he is embracing an old, rotting naked woman.
    • When Danny draws "REDRUM" on the door while Wendy is asleep, his repeated uttering of the word wakes her up, and as she hugs him she looks into the mirror and sees the word reversed ("MURDER").
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The fact that Jack is a writer who is suffering severely from Writer's Block is the reason the family goes to the hotel in the first place.
  • Mythology Gag: Kubrick dispensed with several of the novel's plot points but kept references to them in the movie. The book explains just where Danny's imaginary friend "Tony" comes from, who the dead lady in the bathtub is, and who the person in the dog costume delivering a blow job is. The film keeps these elements but with no explanation. Also, Kubrick did not use the novel's climax— exploding boiler destroys the hotel—but still showed the boiler in a couple of scenes.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer for the movie shows the credits overlaid over the elevator doors, and then a torrent of blood flooding the hallway and blanketing the camera. While this scene does appear in the movie, it hints at a much gorier, murder-heavy film than it actually is. Particularly when you consider that only two characters die, and only one of those is murdered.
  • No, Except Yes: This line, as Jack has lost it and starts menacing his wife.
    Jack: I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just gonna bash your brains in. I'm gonna bash them right the fuck in!
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The scenes of Danny riding his Big Wheel through the hotel, which have no sound other than the wheels on the floor.
    • The scene with Hallorann navigating the empty lobby, since we know Jack is coming for him but the place is empty and silent. Eventually, Jack emerges from one of the pillars and hacks Hallorann to death with an axe.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: As Jack is chasing down Danny through the hedge maze and Wendy is in the Overlook Hotel desperately searching for Danny, starting to hallucinate, you can hear ominous Old Church Slavonic chanting from Penderecki's Utrenja.
  • Paint the Town Red: The elevator scene.
  • Pater Familicide: Grady did this, and Jack attempts it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Grady refers to Hallorann as "a nigger cook". Doubles as Deliberate Values Dissonance, as Grady appears to a be the ghost of a butler from the 20s.
    • See Indian Burial Ground above for a more ambitious unpacking of this.
    • Jack is certainly counts too. He makes the offhanded comment about the white man's burden and repeats Grady's phrase about a "nigger cook," as well as several misogynistic remarks about women.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The twins in front of the elevator (in-universe) aren't twins at all. Just sisters who dress and look the same. Still doesn't make them any less murdered by their crazy dad.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: While the movie departs from the book quite a bit, it can stand on its own.
  • Precision F-Strike: The first instance of abuse of Wendy by Jack is verbal, telling her quietly to "start [leaving him alone] right now and get the fuck out of here." As his sanity breaks, he starts using the word a little bit more liberally.
  • Psychological Horror: It takes it Up to Eleven by making the supernatural elements much more ambiguous than in the books.
  • Psycho Strings: Half the score sounds very much like Bernard Herrmann's work, but it's actually avant-garde modernist music by Béla Bartók, György Ligeti and Krzysztof Pendercki.
  • The Radio Dies First: When Jack decides to kill Wendy and Danny, one of his first acts is to disable the radio so she cannot call for help.
  • Randomly Reversed Letters: Danny, who's channeling the hotel's evil, writes his Madness Mantra, "REDRUM" ("MURDER" in reverse) in crayon on the bathroom door with the middle two letters backwards.
  • Reality Warper: The hotel is hinted as having elements of this; see Alien Geometries above, but also the last shot may imply that the spirits of the people the Overlook absorbs now exist outside time.
  • Reality Ensues: Unlike the novel, Wendy is not a stunning blonde who for some reason is devoted to her average-looking, alcoholic, abusive husband (who has shown some promise as a writer but has only had a single story published). Instead, as played by Shelley Duvall she is a sweet, mousy woman who is cowering and ingratiating around Jack to the point of being irritating...that is, the type of wife someone like him would probably end up with. She also acts as most people would when confronted with an axe-wielding maniac—she blubber and whimpers rather than showing heroic dignity. She does prove to have enough inner strength and resourcefulness to save Danny and herself. Kubrick's refusal to play to genre stereotypes has led to fans (and Stephen King himself) dumping on Shelly Duvall's performance for years.
  • Re Cut: When the film premiered, it had a final scene in which Ullman visits Wendy and Danny at the hospital and explains that Jack's body could not be found. About three weeks into release, Kubrick ordered this scene excised from all prints.
    • Kubrick then trimmed an additional 30 minutes of footage for the film's European theatrical release. This shorter cut, which was his preferred version of the film, is also used for non-US DVD releases.
  • Rivers of Blood: Blood pours out of an elevator, flooding a hotel hallway.
  • Room Full of Crazy: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's particularly unsettling because of the sheer number of pages, with the tacit implication that Jack has been gradually losing his mind almost from the instant the family arrived in the hotel.
  • Sanity Slippage: The hotel causes every caretaker to lose his mind. Stephen King stated his book was about a normal man who goes crazy, and that Stanley Kubrick's film was about a crazy man who goes absolutely bonkers.
  • Scenery Porn: The opening, which shows Jack's drive to the hotel alongside beautiful scenery shots of Saint Mary Lake.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A major subplot is Dick Hallorann trying to contact and subsequently save the Torrances. As soon as he arrives at the Overlook, Jack axes him and he dies.
    • Subverted Trope: His arrival with a Snowcat is what allows Wendy and Danny to escape the hotel, so Hallorann technically succeeded in saving them.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Movie: The movie was a much different take on the kind of slasher movies that were becoming popular at the time. It's much more psychological; it's what happens when Stanley Kubrick makes one. Notably, there are only two deaths in the film.
  • Slasher Smile: Just look at a picture of Jack during the "Here's Johnny!" scene. Of course, he is played by Jack Nicholson, so that sort of thing is expected.
  • Snow Means Death: Justified, with Jack freezing to death in the hedge maze.
  • Snowed-In
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • "Midnight, with the stars and youuuu..."
    • "I love you, Danny. I love you more than anything else in the whole world. And I would never do anything to hurt ya, never. You know that, don't ya? Huh?" to Béla Bartók's somber and menacing Music for Percussion, Strings and Celesta.
    • Also hearing the light-hearted Road Runner cartoons in the background of otherwise deadly serious scenes.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Overlook itself in the film.
  • Spooky Photographs: "Overlook Hotel - July 4th Ball - 1921"
  • Staircase Tumble: After being hit in the head with a baseball bat by Wendy, Jack takes a nasty fall down a flight of stairs that renders him unconscious once he reaches the bottom.
  • Surreal Horror: The movie doesn't explain many of the strange things that happen in the hotel. It is also left deliberately vague whether or not there are supernatural causes at work, or just figments of the characters' imaginations. Apparently Kubrick screened Eraserhead for the crew to show them the kind of atmosphere he wanted to convey in the film.
  • Tap on the Head: Wendy hits Jack on the head with a baseball bat and he falls down a flight of stairs. It's unclear which actually knocks him unconscious, but either way he's awake less than an hour later, with nothing more than a headache and a small gash for his trouble.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: It's kept deliberately vague whether the strange goings-on at the Overlook are real or just a product of Jack's deteriorating mental state.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs:
    • Jack tracks Danny through the hedge maze by following Danny's footsteps in the snow. Danny quickly realizes what is going on and back-tracks through his own footsteps to throw Jack off the trail. He then follows Jack's footprints in reverse to quickly escape from the maze.
    • Wendy jokes about having to leave a trail of bread crumbs to find her way around the hotel.
  • Uncanny Valley: Deliberately invoked by Nicholson's acting towards the beginning of the film; he seems to be cheery and dapper, but there's just something off about it, and it all feels horribly phony. Most likely done to call attention to his need for a drink.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Roger Ebert argued that what makes the film so disturbing is that all of the main characters might be examples of this - the audience is never given unambiguous evidence that any of Jack, Wendy or Danny's perspectives is objective and accurate.
  • Villainous Breakdown: As Jack chases Danny into the maze and begins to slowly freeze to death, his words become more slurred and begin to degenerate until he is just bellowing like an ox.
  • Wham Line: The caption of the final image of the film. As if Jack in the foreground wasn't significant enough, the shot lowers to the description of the picture: "Overlook Hotel - July 4th Ball - 1921".
  • Wham Shot:
    • The image of Jack frozen to death.
    • The final shot, no less, which focuses on a picture from a July 4th ball at the hotel in 1921. The cross-dissolves slowly zoom in on a person in the picture until you realize that person is Jack.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: "Wendy? Baby? I think you hurt my head real bad..."
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Wendy tells the doctor that Danny's shoulder had been dislocated six months earlier. Later, while bitching to Lloyd the Bartender, Jack says that the dislocated shoulder incident had happened three years earlier.
    • Also, when talking to Lloyd, when taking his first drink, he says: "Here's to five months on the wagon, and all the irreparable harm it's done," calling to mind how Wendy said Jack had stopped drinking when he hurt Danny, yet just a moment later, he makes the "three years" comment. It may have been to show just how much Jack is losing it, that he can no longer correctly recall important things like that, and can only focus on his desire for alcohol.

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