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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Shining 1980 Reviewed

Updated: May 11

Featured Image For The Shining 1980 Reviewed. 1980 'The Shining' movie poster featuring a haunting image of a boy's face with a scream superimposed over text, all set against a stark yellow background.
Echoes of a scream that chills to the bone, 'The Shining' unveils a corridor of madness where fear resides.

There's a red stain spreading across the carpet of your mind, and it came from the Overlook Hotel. Or maybe you brought it with you– after all, Stanley Kubrick's film leaves that chilling question open. That ambiguity's part of why "The Shining" still fascinates us decades later. Sure, it's a movie about ghosts and a father driven to murder, but it's also about the horror gnawing away within our own heads.

The Shining Key Takeaways

  • Isolation breeds madness: The Overlook Hotel, cut off in the winter, amplifies existing tensions and negative thoughts, pushing vulnerable people over the edge.

  • Family trauma can be cyclical: Jack Torrance repeats the history of the previous caretaker, suggesting the violence is linked to the place, or perhaps to a pattern within broken families.

  • Psychic abilities are a mixed blessing: Danny's "shine" lets him see the hotel's horrors, but it also makes him a target for whatever evil force resides there.

Deeper Interpretations

  • The unreliability of perception: The film gives no clear answer as to whether the supernatural events are real or all in Jack's mind. This open question makes the horror more unsettling.

  • Kubrick's symbolism: Every image, from the carpet patterns to the twins, has been analyzed for hidden meanings. Audiences can enjoy finding their own interpretations.

  • The horror of the mundane: Long, quiet takes and stilted dialogue create an almost more disturbing atmosphere than outright scares, suggesting evil lurks under an ordinary surface.

Meta-Level Takeaways

  • Book vs. film adaptations: "The Shining" is a prime example of how a filmmaker can take source material and spin it in a completely new and valid direction, even if the original author dislikes the result.

  • Horror's power to linger: The film's unsettling imagery and unresolved questions guarantee it sticks in your mind long after the credits roll. That's the mark of a successful horror experience.

  • Kubrick's genius (or madness): Whether you adore or despise the film, it's impossible to deny Kubrick's mastery of technique and his ability to provoke thought and debate.

A woman gripped by fear, her eyes wide with terror, as she watches the psychological horror of 'The Shining' from 1980
Her eyes reflect the maze of horror, twisted by the haunting corridors of The Overlook Hotel, where madness plays in echoes.

In the hands of any other director, maybe Stephen King's bestseller about a collapsing family snowed in at a haunted hotel would've been, well, just another horror film. But Kubrick was a whole other beast. Remember, this is the mind behind "2001: A Space Odyssey." He doesn't deliver simple scares; he wants to unravel your sense of reality itself.

Take the opening scene at a job interview, when Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, in a role that seared him into our cultural memory) is making nice with his potential employer. The dialogue has a formality that echoes the small talk people make when they'd rather not be discussing the elephant in the room. That elephant is the fact that the previous caretaker murdered his wife and two daughters before taking his own life.

Kubrick doesn't hide this detail – the employer warns Jack straight away. Isolation is brutal, the man says, and not for everyone. You can almost hear the echo of the Overlook's whispered secrets in the awkward silences that follow. We know something awful will go down, the only question is how. The brilliance of "The Shining" is that it makes us wonder how much of that awfulness is already lurking inside Jack's head.

A man sits on the edge of his seat, terror-stricken, as he watches the unsettling scenes of 'The Shining' from 1980.
Frozen in the glow of the screen, his face mirrors the dread that dwells within the haunted halls of The Overlook.

The Critic Reviews and User Reviews Are Mixed

Kubrick's film casts a spell of its own, entirely separate from Stephen King's book. That enraged King – even horror fans know he famously hated this adaptation – yet it's undeniable that Kubrick crafted a masterpiece, from the way the camera stalks through the hotel like an unseen predator to the terrifyingly uncanny performance of Shelley Duvall as Jack's unraveling wife, Wendy. She and young Danny Lloyd (as their son Danny, blessed/cursed with psychic abilities) somehow manage to feel like real people caught up in a nightmare. It's a testament to their acting skills, because nothing in the film behaves like reality.

Danny's gift – his "shine" – is how we get iconic moments like the Grady twins beckoning him to "come play with us". That alone would cement the film in horror history. But there's so much more: blood spilling from elevators, visions of murdered children, a phantom party. And don't forget the enigmatic Room 237, the rotting heart of the hotel. Did something actually happen there, or are we only seeing what Jack's broken mind conjures?

That's the question that haunts you long after the final frame. Even Roger Ebert, the legendary film critic, was left grappling with it in his review. No reliable observer exists in "The Shining" except maybe Dick Hallorann, the cook with a psychic link to Danny, and even his usefulness runs out fast. We're tossed into a maze made of madness, and whether we find our way out depends on whose idea of events we trust… ours or that of a homicidal father who may or may not be possessed?

And that is The Shining 1980 Reviewed. Another great classic horror movie.

Stay tuned for more horror movie reviews.

If You Liked The Shining You Might Also Like These Films

  • The Exorcist (1973): This classic supernatural horror explores demonic possession and the battle for a young girl's soul. Like "The Shining", it delves into disturbing psychological territory and raises questions about the nature of evil, even prompting debate over whether the terrifying events depicted are real or the breakdown of the characters' minds.

  • Rosemary's Baby (1968): A slow-burn psychological horror where a pregnant woman suspects those around her, including her husband, are involved in a sinister plot against her unborn child. The use of claustrophobic spaces, paranoia, and ambiguity about whether the supernatural threat is real or imagined echoes the experience of Wendy Torrance in "The Shining".

  • Hereditary (2018): A modern horror film praised for its disturbing atmosphere and focus on family trauma. Like "The Shining", it gradually reveals a sinister force at work, preying on vulnerabilities and hinting at a legacy of hidden evil within the family.

  • The Witch (2015): Set in colonial New England, this chilling horror follows a family cast out into the wilderness, where they face isolation, paranoia, and a creeping evil that may be supernatural or rooted in their own fears and suspicions. The focus on the psychological strain of hardship and the potential for darkness within a family unit mirror themes in "The Shining".

  • The Lighthouse (2019): A visually striking, black-and-white psychological horror about two lighthouse keepers trapped during a storm. The focus on isolation, escalating tension, blurring the lines between reality and madness, and potential supernatural elements make this a captivating watch for those who loved the haunting atmosphere of "The Shining".

The Shining 1980 Reviewed FAQs

Q: Who directed the movie "The Shining"? 

A: Stanley Kubrick directed "The Shining." He was a meticulous and often controversial filmmaker, famed for his perfectionism, unique visual style, and tackling challenging themes.

Q: Who wrote the novel on which "The Shining" is based? 

A: "The Shining" is based on the 1977 novel by Stephen King. Interestingly, King was famously displeased with Kubrick's adaptation, feeling it deviated too heavily from his source material and misinterpreted core themes.

Q: What genre does "The Shining" belong to? 

A: "The Shining" falls under the horror movie genre, specifically the subgenre of psychological horror. It relies less on jump scares and gore, and more on building a sustained sense of dread, ambiguity, and mental deterioration.

Q: What is the central theme of "The Shining"? 

A: "The Shining" explores the theme of insanity. However, it also delves into themes of isolation, family dysfunction, the potential for violence lurking within seemingly normal people, and even, potentially, the cyclical nature of historical trauma (some interpretations hint at the Overlook Hotel being built on land with a violent past).

Q: Who co-wrote the screenplay for "The Shining" with Stanley Kubrick? 

A: Diane Johnson co-wrote the screenplay for "The Shining" with Stanley Kubrick. She's an accomplished novelist and essayist, known for works like "Le Divorce".

Q: What is the relationship between Wendy and Danny in "The Shining"? 

A: Wendy is Jack's wife, and Danny is their son in "The Shining."

Q: When was "The Shining" released? 

A: "The Shining" was released in May 1980 in the United States, with a slightly later release in the UK.

Q: Is "The Shining" based on a ghost story or a horror film? 

A: "The Shining" is based on both a ghost story and a horror film. It incorporates classic supernatural horror elements (haunted hotel, ghostly figures, psychic abilities), but Kubrick's focus leans heavily on the psychological horror experienced by the characters.

Q: How much was the budget for making "The Shining"? 

A: The budget for making "The Shining" was initially $12 million. However, Kubrick's notorious perfectionism led to extensive reshoots and delays, reportedly inflating the final cost closer to $15 million.

Q: Can you name another famous film directed by Stanley Kubrick? 

A: Stanley Kubrick directed many iconic films throughout his career. Some other notable examples include:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): A groundbreaking science fiction film exploring themes of artificial intelligence, space exploration, and the evolution of humanity.

  • A Clockwork Orange (1971): A dystopian, ultra-violent film exploring themes of free will, social control, and the nature of evil.

  • Dr. Strangelove (1964): A satirical black comedy about the absurdities of nuclear war and Cold War tensions.

  • Full Metal Jacket (1987): A grim and visceral war film focusing on the dehumanizing nature of military training and the horrors of the Vietnam War.

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