Critical Review 2: The Shining

The Shining is a film masterpiece directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is a Dramatic/Thriller film in which a writer named Jack Torrence, who is experiencing writers block, gets an offer to become a winter caretaker for an overlook hotel in Colorado. He moves in with his wife, Wendy, and his son, Danny, who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing never goes anywhere and Danny’s visions become more vivid and disturbing, Jack begins changing the way he’s acting and begins obsessing over things in the hotel. He begins acting weirdly and doing things to pass the time, as his writer’s block has not subsided. After a time he begins to go insane, and obsess over killing his own family.


When Jack goes off the handle, lighting and angle are used to convey emotion. In the screen cap above, the picture you are seeing is after a long zooming shot that pulled the frame closer and closer to his face. His face is well lit, accenting the crazed look in his eyes. The same can be said for the next screen cap.

Lighting Angry jack

The same technique is used here, lighting Jack’s down-turned face and wild look in order to accent the amount of aggression and insanity that they family is experiencing.

Crazy Jack Angle

Here Jack is overtaking the frame. We feel his overwhelming power and drive to get out of the pantry he is locked in. His face is red and so is his jacket. The color red in films usually signifies death or harm in the coming scenes. Much like this next picture.

Red Hall

During chase sequences, the camera follows in an smooth, centered, and equidistant manner. Making the viewer feel almost as if they are a ghost idling following and watching as events unfold.

Wendy Running

The hotel in itself is designed like a maze. There is even a comment about it’s complexity and it’s size when they are being welcomed on their first day. Follow shots in the rest of the film are just the same as chase scenes, but are slower so the viewer can get a grasp of the surrounding area. Chase scenes speed this up, and leave the viewer feeling just as hopeless as the character involved.

Danny Running

The cinematography of the film is excellent. In the very first shot, we are flying over a river that shows an island in the first five seconds of the film. The significance of the island is mute but the idea of it is spread throughout the film. An isolated place that’s hard to get to, where anything could happen. This parallels with the idea of the hotel itself. In the winter, it is extremely hard to get to, and no ones exactly knows about what goes in there during that time. That is, except the man who hired Jack.


In the same helicopter shot we are shown the vast landscape surrounding a small yellow car in the distance. The camera then comes in close to the car and shows how insignificant it is compares to the barren nature surrounding it. This immediately helps show how truly isolated the family is and how long it must have taken them just to get to the location of the hotel.

The story structure of the film is based on creating suspense for the viewer. Early promotional posters for the film alluded to a terrifying horror film that was sure to be a sight to see. It was made by Stanley Kubrick, who had already been more then established in the world of film production with many box office hits. So audiences were expecting to be scared going in. Nothing scary happens in the first half of the film, only things that come off as slightly unnerving or odd. As the film progresses however, the audience has no idea what could happen next, there in lies the suspense. The shear unsettling nature of the film also adds to it’s suspense as it is unlike and “horror’ movie made at the time.

The values of the film seem to include occupational success, or the willingness to work hard. Also, for the first half of the film, family. Jack seems to value hard work over his family, and has even at times been a drunk. So the family value is there, but tested at all points in time. The film also values isolation. Jack and his family use it as a way to “get away from it all”, with Jack hoping to cure his writers block, and Wendy hoping to repair their marriage.

The portrayal of women in the film is based on Wendy, Jack’s wife. She serves as a caretaker for Danny and somewhat of a servant for Jack as he “writes”. As we go deeper into the film however, we are shown how strong she can be when confronted by her crazed husband. She hits his over the head with a bat when he first comes after her, and ends up being able to lock him in the pantry. Later, after he gets out of the pantry for unknown reasons, she is stuck in a bathroom with Danny, running from Jack who has obtained an axe.


She cuts his hand and he backs off. Then he is distracted by someone pulling up outside.

In conclusion, I could write about this movie for hours. There are so many perfectly executed match cuts, scenes, and little secrets hidden within the film. Which has actually made it my favorite film thus far.


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