Production took place almost exclusively at EMI Elstree Studios with sets strongly based on real locations. Kubrick often worked with a small crew which allowed him to do many takes, sometimes to the exhaustion of the actors and staff. The new Steadicam was used in several scenes giving it an innovative and immersive look and feel. Because of inconsistencies, ambiguities, symbolism, and differences from the book, there has been much speculation into the meanings and actions in the movie.
Unlike Kubrick's previous works, which developed audiences gradually through word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, initially opening in two U.S. cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide within a month. The European release of The Shining a few months later was 25 minutes shorter due to Kubrick's removal of most of the scenes taking place outside the environs of the hotel.
Although contemporary responses from critics were mixed, assessment became more favorable in following decades, and it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. American director Martin Scorsese ranked it one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Critics, scholars, and crew members (such as Kubrick's producer Jan Harlan) have discussed the film's enormous influence on popular culture.
Jack Torrance arrives at the mountain-isolated Overlook Hotel, which is twenty-five miles from the closest town, to be interviewed for the position of winter caretaker. Once hired, Jack plans to use the hotel's solitude to write. The hotel, built on the site of a Native American burial ground, becomes snowed-in during the winter; it is closed from October to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns Jack that a previous caretaker, Charles Grady, developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. In Boulder, Jack's son, Danny Torrance, has a terrifying premonition about the hotel, viewing a cascade of blood emerging from an elevator door, and then falls into a trance. Jack's wife, Wendy, tells a doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, and that Jack has given up drinking because he dislocated Danny's shoulder following a binge.
The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef, Dick Hallorann, surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. Dick explains to Danny that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls "shining". Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel has a "shine" to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay away from room 237.
A month passes; while Jack's writing goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel's hedge maze, and Hallorann goes to Florida. Wendy learns that the phone lines are out due to the heavy snowfall, and Danny has frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts behaving strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts. Danny's curiosity about room 237 overcomes him when he sees the room's door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack screaming during a nightmare while asleep at his typewriter. After she awakens him, Jack says he dreamed that he killed her and Danny. Danny arrives and is visibly traumatized with a bruise on his neck, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing him. Jack wanders into the hotel's Gold Room and meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him bourbon whiskey while Jack complains about his marriage. Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her a "crazy woman in one of the rooms" attempted to strangle him. Jack investigates room 237, encountering the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy that he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue over whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, now filled with ghosts attending a ball. He meets the ghost of Grady who tells Jack that he must "correct" his wife and child and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann using his "talent". Meanwhile, Hallorann grows concerned about what's going on at the hotel and flies back to Colorado. Danny starts calling out "redrum" and goes into a trance, referring to himself as "Tony".
While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers he has been typing pages of a repetitive manuscript: "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". She begs Jack to leave the hotel with Danny, but he threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She drags him into the kitchen and locks him in the pantry, but she and Danny are both trapped at the hotel: Jack has disabled the hotel's two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who unlocks the door.
Danny writes "REDRUM" on the outside of the bathroom door in the family's living quarters. When Wendy sees the word reversed in the bedroom mirror, the word is revealed to be "MURDER". Jack begins hacking through the quarters' main door with a firefighter's axe. Wendy sends Danny through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack breaks through the bathroom door, shouting "Here's Johnny!", but retreats after Wendy slashes his hand with a butcher's knife. Hearing Hallorann arriving in a snowcat he borrowed, Jack leaves the room. He murders Hallorann with the axe in the lobby and pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering ghosts and the cascade of blood Danny envisioned in Boulder. She also finds Hallorann's corpse in the lobby. Danny lays a false trail to mislead Jack, who is following his footprints, before hiding behind a drift. Danny escapes from the maze and reunites with Wendy; they escape in Hallorann's snowcat, while Jack freezes to death in the snow. In a photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles amid a crowd of party revelers.
In the shorter European cut, all of the scenes involving Jackson and Burton are cut (although their names still appear in the credits). Dennen is on-screen in both versions of the film, albeit to a limited degree (and with no dialogue) in the shorter cut.
The actresses who played the ghosts of the murdered Grady daughters, Lisa and Louise Burns, are identical twins; however, the characters in the book and film script are merely sisters, not twins. In the film's dialogue, Mr. Ullman identifies them as "about eight and ten." Nonetheless, they are frequently referred to in discussions about the film as "the Grady twins."
The resemblance in the staging of the Grady girls and the "Twins" photograph by Diane Arbus has been noted both by Arbus' biographer, Patricia Bosworth, the Kubrick assistant who cast and coached them, Leon Vitali, and by numerous Kubrick critics. Although Kubrick both met Arbus personally and studied photography under her during his youthful days as photographer for Look magazine, Kubrick's widow says he did not deliberately model the Grady girls on Arbus' photograph, in spite of widespread attention to the resemblance.
Before making The Shining, Stanley Kubrick had directed the 1975 movie Barry Lyndon, a highly visual period film about an Irish man who attempts to make his way into the British aristocracy. Despite its technical achievements, the film was not a box office success in the United States and was derided by critics for being too long and too slow. Kubrick, disappointed with Barry Lyndon's lack of success, realized he needed to make a film that would be commercially viable as well as artistically fulfilling. Stephen King was told that Kubrick had his staff bring him stacks of horror books as he planted himself in his office to read them all: "Kubrick's secretary heard the sound of each book hitting the wall as the director flung it into a reject pile after reading the first few pages. Finally one day the secretary noticed it had been a while since she had heard the thud of another writer's work biting the dust. She walked in to check on her boss and found Kubrick deeply engrossed in reading The Shining."
Speaking about the theme of the film, Kubrick stated that "there's something inherently wrong with the human personality. There's an evil side to it. One of the things that horror stories can do is to show us the archetypes of the unconscious; we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly".
Nicholson was Kubrick's first choice for the role of Jack Torrance; other actors considered included Robert De Niro (who claims the film gave him nightmares for a month), Robin Williams, and Harrison Ford, all of whom met with Stephen King's disapproval. In his search to find the right actor to play Danny, Kubrick sent a husband and wife team, Leon and Kersti Vitali, to Chicago, Denver, and Cincinnati to create an interview pool of 5,000 boys over a six-month period. These cities were chosen since Kubrick was looking for a boy with an accent which fell in between Jack Nicholson's and Shelley Duvall's speech patterns.
Having chosen King's novel as a basis for his next project, and after a pre-production phase, Kubrick had sets constructed on soundstages at EMI Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, Britain. Some of the interior designs of the Overlook Hotel set were based on those of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. To enable him to shoot the scenes in chronological order, he used several stages at EMI Elstree Studios in order to make all sets available during the complete duration of production. The set for the Overlook Hotel was at the time the largest ever built at Elstree, including a life-size re-creation of the exterior of the hotel. In February 1979, the set at Elstree was badly damaged in a fire, causing a delay in the production.
While most of the interior shots, and even some of the Overlook exterior shots, were shot on studio sets, a few exterior shots were shot on location by a second-unit crew headed by Jan Harlan. Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park, Montana was the filming location for the aerial shots of the opening scenes, with the Volkswagen Beetle driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon was filmed for a few of the exterior shots of the fictional Overlook Hotel; notably absent in these shots is the hedge maze, something the Timberline Lodge does not have.
Outtakes of the opening panorama shots were later used by Ridley Scott for the closing moments of the original cut of the film Blade Runner (1982).
The Shining had a prolonged and arduous production period, often with very long workdays. Principal photography took over a year to complete, due to Kubrick's highly methodical nature. Actress Shelley Duvall did not get along with Kubrick, frequently arguing with him on set about lines in the script, her acting techniques and numerous other things. Duvall eventually became so overwhelmed by the stress of her role that she became physically ill for months. At one point, she was under so much stress that her hair began to fall out. The shooting script was being changed constantly, sometimes several times a day, adding more stress. Jack Nicholson eventually became so frustrated with the ever-changing script that he would throw away the copies that the production team would give to him to memorize, knowing that it was just going to change anyway. He learned most of his lines just minutes before filming them. Nicholson was living in London with his then-girlfriend Anjelica Huston and her younger sister, Allegra, who testified to his long shooting days. Joe Turkel stated in a 2014 interview that they rehearsed the "bar scene" for six weeks, starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 10:30 p.m. each day, with Turkel recollecting that his clothes would be soaked in his own sweat by the end of every day's shoot. He also added that it was his favorite scene in the film.
For the final Gold Room sequence, Kubrick instructed the extras (via megaphone) not to talk, "but to mime conversation to each other. Kubrick knew from years of scrutinizing thousands of films that extras could often mime their business by nodding and using large gestures that look fake. He told them to act naturally to give the scene a chilling sense of time-tripping realism as Jack walks from the seventies into the roaring twenties".
For the international versions of the film, Kubrick shot different takes of Wendy reading the typewriter pages in different languages. For each language, a suitable idiom was used: German (Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen — "Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today"), Italian (Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca — "The morning has gold in its mouth"), French (Un «Tiens» vaut mieux que deux «Tu l'auras» — "One 'here you go' is worth more than two 'you'll have it'", the equivalent of "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"), Spanish (No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano — "No matter how early you get up, you can't make the sun rise any sooner.") These alternate shots were not included with the DVD release, where only the English phrase "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" was used.
The door that Jack chops through with the axe near the end of the film was a real door. Kubrick had originally shot this scene with a fake door, but Nicholson, who had worked as a volunteer fire marshal, tore it down too quickly. Jack's line, "Heeeere's Johnny!", is taken from Ed McMahon's famous introduction to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was improvised by Nicholson. Kubrick, who had lived in England for some time, was unaware of the significance of the line, and nearly used a different take. Carson later used the Nicholson clip to open his 1980 anniversary show on NBC.
During production, Kubrick screened David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) to the cast and crew, to convey the mood he wanted to achieve for the film.
The Shining was among the first half-dozen films (after the 1976 films Bound for Glory, Marathon Man, and Rocky), to use the newly developed Steadicam, a stabilizing mount for a motion picture camera, which mechanically separates the operator's movement from the camera's, allowing smooth tracking shots while the operator is moving over an uneven surface. It essentially combines the stabilized steady footage of a regular mount with the fluidity and flexibility of a handheld camera. The inventor of the Steadicam, Garrett Brown, was heavily involved with the production of The Shining. Brown has described his excitement taking his first tour of the sets which offered "further possibilities for the Steadicam". This tour convinced Brown to become personally involved with the production. Kubrick was not "just talking of stunt shots and staircases". Rather he would use the Steadicam "as it was intended to be used — as a tool which can help get the lens where it's wanted in space and time without the classic limitations of the dolly and crane". Brown used an 18 mm Cooke lens that allowed the Steadicam to pass within an inch of walls and door frames. Brown published an article in American Cinematographer about his experience, and contributed to the audio commentary on the 2007 DVD release.
Kubrick personally aided in modifying the Steadicam's video transmission technology. Brown states his own abilities to operate the Steadicam were refined by working on Kubrick's film. For this film, Brown developed a two-handed technique, which enabled him to maintain the camera at one height while panning and tilting the camera. In addition to tracking shots from behind, the Steadicam enabled shooting in constricted rooms without flying out walls, or backing the camera into doors. Brown notes that:
One of the most talked-about shots in the picture is the eerie tracking sequence which follows Danny as he pedals at high speed through corridor after corridor on his plastic Big Wheel tricycle. The soundtrack explodes with noise when the wheel is on wooden flooring and is abruptly silent as it crosses over carpet. We needed to have the lens just a few inches from the floor and to travel rapidly just behind or ahead of the bike.
This required the Steadicam to be on a special mount modeled on a wheelchair in which the operator sat while pulling a platform with the sound man. The weight of the rig and its occupants proved to be too much for the original tires however, resulting in a blowout one day that almost caused a serious crash. Solid tires were then mounted on the rig. Kubrick also had a highly accurate speedometer mounted on the rig so as to duplicate the exact tempo of a given shot so that Brown could perform take after identical take. Brown also discusses how the scenes in the hedge maze were shot with a Steadicam.
Music and soundtrack
The stylistically modernist art-music chosen by Kubrick is similar to the repertoire he first explored in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although the repertoire was selected by Kubrick, the process of matching passages of music to motion picture was left almost entirely at the discretion of music editor Gordon Stainforth, whose work on this film is known for the attention to fine details and remarkably precise synchronization without excessive splicing.
The soundtrack album on LP was withdrawn due to problems with licensing of the music. It remains only available on vinyl (there has never been a CD release) and is difficult to find. The LP soundtrack omits some pieces heard in the film, and also includes complete versions of pieces of which only fragments are heard in the film.
The non-original music on the soundtrack is as follows:
- "Lontano" by György Ligeti, Ernest Bour conducting the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (Wergo Records)
- "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" by Béla Bartók, Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon)
- "Utrenja" – excerpts from the "Ewangelia" and "Kanon Paschy" movements by Krzysztof Penderecki, Andrzej Markowski conducting the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra (Polskie Nagrania Records)
- "The Awakening of Jacob", "De Natura Sonoris No. 1" (the latter not on the soundtrack album, Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henryk Czyż) and "De Natura Sonoris No. 2" by Krzysztof Penderecki (Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrzej Markowski, Polskie Nagrania Records)
- "Home", performed by Henry Hall and the Gleneagles Hotel Band (Columbia Records)
- "It's All Forgotten Now" by Al Bowlly, performed by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (not on the soundtrack album)
- "Masquerade", performed by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (not on soundtrack)
- "Kanon (for string orchestra)" by Krzysztof Penderecki (not on soundtrack)
- "Polymorphia (for string orchestra)" by Krzysztof Penderecki, Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Henryk Czyż (not on soundtrack)
- "Midnight, the Stars and You" by Al Bowlly, performed by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (not on soundtrack)
Upon their arrival at Elstree Studios, Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind were shown the first version of the film by Kubrick: "The film was a little on the long side. There were great gobs of scenes that never made it to the film. There was a whole strange and mystical scene in which Jack Nicholson discovers objects that have been arranged in his working space in the ballroom with arrows and things. He walks down and thinks he hears a voice and a ghost throws a ball back to him. None of that made it to the final film. We scored a lot of those. We didn't know what was going to be used for sure". Carlos has said that she was so disillusioned by Kubrick's actions that she vowed never to work with him again. Her own music was released in its near entirety in 2005 as part of her Rediscovering Lost Scores compilation.
After its premiere and a week into the general run (with a running time of 146 minutes), Kubrick cut a scene at the end that took place in a hospital. The scene shows Wendy in a bed talking with Mr. Ullman who explains that Jack's body could not be found; he then gives Danny a yellow tennis ball, presumably the same one that Jack was throwing around the hotel. This scene was subsequently physically cut out of prints by projectionists and sent back to the studio by order of Warner Bros., the film's distributor. This cut the film's running time to 144 minutes. As noted by Roger Ebert:
If Jack did indeed freeze to death in the labyrinth, of course his body was found – and sooner rather than later, since Dick Hallorann alerted the forest rangers to serious trouble at the hotel. If Jack's body was not found, what happened to it? Was it never there? Was it absorbed into the past and does that explain Jack's presence in that final photograph of a group of hotel party-goers in 1921? Did Jack's violent pursuit of his wife and child exist entirely in Wendy's imagination, or Danny's, or theirs? ... Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue. It pulled one rug too many out from under the story. At some level, it is necessary for us to believe the three members of the Torrance family are actually residents in the hotel during that winter, whatever happens or whatever they think happens.
For its release in Europe, Kubrick cut about 25 minutes from the film. The excised scenes included a longer meeting between Jack and Watson at the hotel, Danny being attended by a doctor (Anne Jackson) including references to Tony and how Danny was once injured by Jack in a drunken rage, more footage of Hallorann's attempts to get to the hotel during the snowstorm including a sequence with a garage attendant (Tony Burton), extended dialogue scenes at the hotel, and a scene where Wendy discovers a group of skeletons in the hotel lobby during the climax. Jackson and Burton are credited in the European print, despite their scenes being excised from the movie. According to Harlan, Kubrick decided to cut some sequences because the film was "not very well received", and after Warner Bros. complained about its ambiguity and length.
The scene where Jack writes obsessively on the typewriter "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" was shot changing the language of the typescript in Italian, French, Spanish, German, because the film would be dubbed in these languages in their respective countries:Italian: Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca ("The morning has gold in (its) mouth", the equivalent of the English proverb "The early bird catches the worm")
Spanish: No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano ("Waking up earlier won't make the dawn come sooner.")
German: Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf Morgen ("Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today")
French: Un «Tiens» vaut mieux que deux «Tu l'auras» ("A 'Hold this' is better than two 'You will have it' ")
In the Italian version, Nicholson was dubbed by Giancarlo Giannini. Kubrick sent him a congratulations letter for his excellent work as voice actor.
Two alternative takes were used in a British television commercial.
The U.S. premiere by ABC on May 6, 1983 started with a placard saying, "TONIGHT’S FILM DEALS WITH THE SUPERNATURAL, AS A POSSESSED MAN ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY HIS FAMILY." With the movie's ambiguities, it is not known how Kubrick felt about or if he agreed with this proclamation. The placard also said that the film was edited for television and warned about the content.
The U.S. region 1 DVD of the film is the longer (144 minute) edit of the film. The European (including UK) region 2 DVD is the shorter (119 minute) version. On British television, the short version played on Channel 4 once and on Sky Movies numerous times in the mid-nineties. All other screenings, before and since these, have been on either ITV or ITV4 and have been the longer U.S. edit. The German DVD shows the short version, as seen in German television screenings.
In accordance with stipulations contained in Kubrick's will, DVD releases show the film in open matte (i.e., with more picture content visible than in movie theaters). The scene in which Wendy discovers her husband's work (consisting only of a simple proverb: "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" repeatedly typed on numerous pages) was shot with different proverbs in at least five languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian and German). Nevertheless, most DVD releases show the English version, disregarding the dub language.
DVDs in both regions contain a candid fly-on-the-wall 33-minute documentary made by Kubrick's daughter Vivian (who was 17 when she filmed it) entitled Making The Shining, originally shown on British television in 1980. She also provided an audio commentary track about her documentary for its DVD release. It appears even on pre-2007 editions of The Shining on DVD, although most DVDs of Kubrick films before then were devoid of documentaries or audio commentaries. It has some candid interviews and very private moments caught on set, such as arguments with cast and director, moments of a no-nonsense Kubrick directing his actors, Scatman Crothers being overwhelmed with emotion during his interview, Shelley Duvall collapsing from exhaustion on the set, and Jack Nicholson enjoying playing up to the behind-the-scenes camera.
The Shining had a slow start at the box office, but gained momentum, eventually doing well commercially during the summer of 1980 and making Warner Bros. a profit. It opened at first to mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times lauded Nicholson's performance and praised the Overlook Hotel as an effective setting for horror, but wrote that "the supernatural story knows frustratingly little rhyme or reason […] Even the film's most startling horrific images seem overbearing and perhaps even irrelevant." Variety was critical, saying, "With everything to work with, ... Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King's bestseller." A common initial criticism was the slow pacing, which was highly atypical of horror films of the time. Roger Ebert did not review the film on his television show when first released, and in print complained that it was hard to connect with any of the characters. It was the only one of Kubrick's last nine films to receive no nominations at all from either the Oscars or Golden Globes, but was nominated for a pair of Razzie Awards, including Worst Director and Worst Actress (Duvall), in the first year that award was given.
Tim Cahill of Rolling Stone noted in an interview with Kubrick that by 1987 there was already a "critical reevaluation of [The Shining] in process". As with most Kubrick films, more recent analyses have treated the film more favorably. Viewers subsequently decided the slow pacing actually contributes to the film's hypnotic quality. Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 87% "Certified Fresh".
In 2006, Roger Ebert, who was initially critical of the work, inducted The Shining into his Great Movies series, saying, "Stanley Kubrick's cold and frightening The Shining challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? Whose idea of events can we trust? […] It is this elusive open-endedness that makes Kubrick's film so strangely disturbing."
Horror film critic Peter Bracke reviewing the Blu-ray release in Hi-Def Digest writes:
Just as the ghostly apparitions of the film's fictional Overlook Hotel would play tricks on the mind of poor Jack Torrance, so too has the passage of time changed the perception of The Shining itself. Many of the same reviewers who lambasted the film for "not being scary" enough back in 1980 now rank it among the most effective horror films ever made, while audiences who hated the film back then now vividly recall being "terrified" by the experience. The Shining has somehow risen from the ashes of its own bad press to redefine itself not only as a seminal work of the genre, but perhaps the most stately, artful horror ever made.
The Shining is widely acclaimed by today's critics, and has become a staple of pop culture. In 2001, the film was ranked 29th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list and Jack Torrance was named the 25th greatest villain on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list in 2003. In 2005, the quote "Here's Johnny!" was ranked 68 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes list. It was named the all-time scariest film by Channel 4, Total Film labeled it the 5th greatest horror film, and Bravo TV named one of the film's scenes 6th on their list of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments. In addition, film critics Kim Newman and Jonathan Romney both placed it in their top ten lists for the 2002 Sight & Sound poll. Director Martin Scorsese placed The Shining on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time. Mathematicians at London's King's College used statistical modeling in a study commissioned by Sky Movies to conclude that The Shining was the "perfect scary movie" due to a proper balance of various ingredients including shock value, suspense, gore and size of the cast. It was voted the 62nd greatest American film ever made in a 2015 poll conducted by BBC.
In 1999, Jonathan Romney discussed Kubrick's perfectionism and dispelled others' initial arguments that the film lacked complexity: "The final scene alone demonstrates what a rich source of perplexity The Shining offers [...] look beyond the simplicity and the Overlook reveals itself as a palace of paradox". Romney further explains:
The dominating presence of the Overlook Hotel – designed by Roy Walker as a composite of American hotels visited in the course of research – is an extraordinary vindication of the value of mise en scène. It's a real, complex space that we don't just see but come to virtually inhabit. The confinement is palpable: horror cinema is an art of claustrophobia, making us loath to stay in the cinema but unable to leave. Yet it's combined with a sort of agoraphobia – we are as frightened of the hotel's cavernous vastness as of its corridors' enclosure. ... The film sets up a complex dynamic between simple domesticity and magnificent grandeur, between the supernatural and the mundane in which the viewer is disoriented by the combination of spaciousness and confinement, and an uncertainty as to just what is real or not.
Speaking about the theme of the film, Kubrick stated that "there's something inherently wrong with the human personality. There's an evil side to it. One of the things that horror stories can do is to show us the archetypes of the unconscious; we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly". Stephen King has been quoted as saying that although Kubrick made a film with memorable imagery, it was poor as an adaptation and that it is the only adaptation of his novels that he could "remember hating". However, in King's 1981 nonfiction book Danse Macabre, he listed Kubrick's film among those he considered to have "contributed something of value to the [horror] genre" and mentioned it as one of his "personal favorites". Before the 1980 movie King often said he gave little attention to the film adaptations of his work.
King himself was suffering from alcoholism at the time he wrote the novel, therefore giving a strong autobiographical element to the story. He has expressed disappointment that his novel's important themes, such as the disintegration of family and the dangers of alcoholism, are less prevalent in the film. King also viewed the casting of Nicholson as a mistake, arguing it would result in a rapid realization among audiences that Jack would ultimately go mad, due to Nicholson's famous identification with the character of McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). King had suggested that a more “everyman”-like actor such as Jon Voight, Christopher Reeve, or Michael Moriarty play the role, so that Jack's subsequent descent into madness would be more unnerving.
In an interview with the BBC, King also criticized Shelley Duvall's performance in the film, stating "(S)he's basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that's not the woman that I wrote about."
Over the years, contradictions have arisen in the discussion of King's criticisms. The author once suggested that he disliked the film's downplaying of the supernatural; King had envisioned Jack as a victim of the genuinely external forces haunting the hotel, whereas King felt Kubrick had viewed the haunting and its resulting malignancy as coming from within Jack himself. In October 2013, however, journalist Laura Miller wrote that the discrepancy between the two was almost the complete opposite: the Jack Torrance of the novel was corrupted by his own choices – particularly alcoholism – whereas in Kubrick's adaptation the causes are actually more surreal and ambiguous:
King is, essentially, a novelist of morality. The decisions his characters make — whether it’s to confront a pack of vampires or to break 10 years of sobriety — are what matter to him. But in Kubrick’s The Shining, the characters are largely in the grip of forces beyond their control. It’s a film in which domestic violence occurs, while King’s novel is about domestic violence as a choice certain men make when they refuse to abandon a delusional, defensive entitlement. As King sees it, Kubrick treats his characters like “insects” because the director doesn’t really consider them capable of shaping their own fates. Everything they do is subordinate to an overweening, irresistible force, which is Kubrick’s highly developed aesthetic; they are its slaves. In King’s “The Shining”, the monster is Jack. In Kubrick’s, the monster is Kubrick.
King's oft-cited remark about Kubrick being a man who “thinks too much and feels too little” is often misconstrued as a remark on Kubrick's obsessive and detached approach to directing actors, but it is actually a less disparaging reference to Kubrick's skepticism regarding the verisimilitude of the supernatural, which emerged in pre-production conversations between King and Kubrick. The full context of King's well-known quote is:
Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fall flat. Not that religion has to be involved in horror, but a visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn't grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: because he couldn't believe, he couldn't make the film believable to others. What's basically wrong with Kubrick's version of The Shining is that it's a film by a man who thinks too much and feels too little; and that's why, for all its virtuoso effects, it never gets you by the throat and hangs on the way real horror should.
Mark Browning, a critic of King's work, observed that King's novels frequently contain a narrative closure that completes the story, which Kubrick's film lacks. Browning has in fact argued that King has exactly the opposite problem of which he accused Kubrick. King, he believes, "feels too much and thinks too little".
King was also disappointed by Kubrick's decision not to film at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, which inspired the story (a decision Kubrick made since the hotel lacked sufficient snow and electricity). However, King finally supervised the 1997 television adaptation also titled The Shining, filmed at The Stanley Hotel.
The animosity of King toward Kubrick's adaptation has dulled over time. During an interview segment on the Bravo channel, King stated that the first time he watched Kubrick's adaptation, he found it to be "dreadfully unsettling".
Nonetheless, writing in the afterword of Doctor Sleep, King professed continued dissatisfaction with the Kubrick film. He said of it "...of course there was Stanley Kubrick's movie which many seem to remember — for reasons I have never quite understood — as one of the scariest films they have ever seen. If you have seen the movie but not read the novel, you should note that Doctor Sleep follows the latter which is, in my opinion, the True History of the Torrance Family."
Film critic Jonathan Romney writes that the film has been interpreted in many different ways; as being about the crisis in masculinity, sexism, corporate America, and racism: "It's tempting to read The Shining as an Oedipal struggle not just between generations but between Jack's culture of the written word and Danny's culture of images...." Romney writes, "Jack also uses the written word to more mundane purpose – to sign his 'contract' with the Overlook. 'I gave my word,' [..] which we take to mean 'gave his soul' in the [..] Faustian sense. But maybe he means it more literally – by the end [..] he has renounced language entirely, pursuing Danny through the maze with an inarticulate animal roar. What he has entered into is a conventional business deal that places commercial obligation [..] over the unspoken contract of compassion and empathy that he seems to have neglected to sign with his family." These varied interpretations spawned the 2012 documentary Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher, which provides an in-depth exploration of various interpretations of, and myths surrounding, the film.
Among interpreters who see the film reflecting more subtly the social concerns that animate other Kubrick films, one of the earliest and most well-known viewpoints was discussed in an essay by ABC reporter Bill Blakemore entitled "Kubrick's 'Shining' Secret: Film's Hidden Horror Is The Murder Of The Indian", first published in The Washington Post on July 12, 1987. He believes that indirect references to American killings of Native Americans pervade the film as exemplified by the Indian logos on the baking powder in the kitchen and Indian artwork that appears throughout the hotel, though no Native Americans are ever seen. Stuart Ullman tells Wendy that when building the hotel a few Indian attacks had to be fended off since it was constructed on an Indian burial ground.
Blakemore's general argument is that the film as a whole is a metaphor for the genocide of Native Americans. He notes that when Jack kills Hallorann, the dead body is seen lying on a rug with an Indian motif. The blood in the elevator shafts is, for Blakemore, the blood of the Indians in the burial ground on which the hotel was built. As such, the fact that the date of the final photograph is July 4 is meant to be deeply ironic. Blakemore writes,
As with some of his other movies, Kubrick ends The Shining with a powerful visual puzzle that forces the audience to leave the theater asking, "What was that all about?" The Shining ends with an extremely long camera shot moving down a hallway in the Overlook, reaching eventually the central photo among 21 photos on the wall. The caption reads: "Overlook Hotel-July 4th Ball-1921." The answer to this puzzle, is that most Americans overlook the fact that July Fourth was no ball, nor any kind of Independence day, for native Americans; that the weak American villain of the film is the re-embodiment of the American men who massacred the Indians in earlier years; that Kubrick is examining and reflecting on a problem that cuts through the decades and centuries.
Blakemore also sees this film as similar to other Kubrick films where evil forces get weak men to do their bidding.
Film writer John Capo sees the film as an allegory of American imperialism. This is exemplified by many clues; the closing photo of Jack in the past at a 4th of July party, or Jack's earlier citation of the Rudyard Kipling poem "The White Man's Burden". The poem has been interpreted as rationalizing the European colonization of non-white people, while Jack's line has been interpreted as referring to alcoholism, from which he suffers.
Geoffrey Cocks and Kubrick's concern with the Holocaust
Film historian Geoffrey Cocks has extended Blakemore's idea that the film has a subtext about Native Americans to arguing that the film indirectly reflects Stanley Kubrick's concerns about the Holocaust (Both Cocks' book and Michael Herr's memoir of Kubrick discuss how he wanted his entire life to make a film dealing directly with the Holocaust, but could never quite get the handle on it that satisfied him). Cocks is a cultural historian best known for describing the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent Western culture. Cocks, writing in his book The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History and the Holocaust, proposed a controversial theory that all of Kubrick's work is informed by the Holocaust; there is, he says, a strong (though hidden) holocaust subtext in The Shining. This, Cocks believes, is why Kubrick's screenplay goes to emotional extremes, omitting much of the novel's supernaturalism and making the character of Wendy much more hysteria-prone. Cocks places Kubrick's vision of a haunted hotel in line with a long literary tradition of hotels in which sinister events occur, from Stephen Crane's short story "The Blue Hotel" (which Kubrick admired) to the Swiss Berghof in Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain, about a snowbound sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps in which the protagonist witnesses a series of events which are a microcosm of the decline of Western culture. In keeping with this tradition, Kubrick's film focuses on domesticity and the Torrances' attempt to use this imposing building as a home which Jack Torrance describes as "homey".
Cocks claims that Kubrick has elaborately coded many of his historical concerns into the film with manipulations of numbers and colors and his choice of musical numbers, many of which are post-war compositions influenced by the horrors of World War II. Of particular note is Kubrick's use of Penderecki's The Awakening of Jacob to accompany Jack Torrance's dream of killing his family and Danny's vision of past carnage in the hotel, a piece of music originally associated with the horrors of the Holocaust. As such, Kubrick's pessimistic ending in contrast to Stephen King's optimistic one is in keeping with the motifs that Kubrick wove into the story.
Cocks' work has been anthologized and discussed in other works on Stanley Kubrick films, but sometimes with skepticism. In particular, Julian Rice writing in the opening chapter of his book Kubrick's Hope believes Cocks' views are excessively speculative and contain too many strained "critical leaps" of faith. Rice holds that what went on in Kubrick's mind cannot be replicated or corroborated beyond a broad vision of the nature of good and evil (which included concern about the Holocaust), but Kubrick's art is not governed by this one single obsession. Diane Johnson, co-screenwriter for The Shining, commented on Cocks' observations and holds that preoccupation with the Jewish Holocaust on Kubrick's part could very likely have motivated his decision to place the hotel on a Native American burial ground, although Kubrick never directly mentioned it to her.
Geoffrey Cocks notes that the film contains many allusions to fairy tales, both Hansel and Gretel and the Three Little Pigs, with Jack Torrance identified as the Big Bad Wolf, which Bruno Bettelheim interprets as standing for "all the asocial unconscious devouring powers" that must be overcome by a child's ego.
The saying "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" appeared first in James Howell's Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659).
Roger Ebert notes that the film does not really have a "reliable observer", with the possible exception of Dick Hallorann. Ebert believes various events call into question the reliability of Jack, Wendy, and Danny at various points. This leads Ebert to conclude that:
Kubrick is telling a story with ghosts (the two girls, the former caretaker and a bartender), but it isn't a "ghost story", because the ghosts may not be present in any sense at all except as visions experienced by Jack or Danny.
Ebert ultimately concludes that "The movie is not about ghosts but about madness and the energies". Likewise, film critic James Berardinelli (who is generally much less impressed with the film than Ebert), notes that "King would have us believe that the hotel is haunted. Kubrick is less definitive in the interpretations he offers." He dubs the film a failure as a ghost story, but brilliant as a study of "madness and the unreliable narrator."
In some sequences, there is a question of whether or not there are ghosts present. In the scenes where Jack sees ghosts he is always facing a mirror, or in the case of his storeroom conversation with Grady, a reflective, highly polished door. Film reviewer James Berardinelli notes "It has been pointed out that there's a mirror in every scene in which Jack sees a ghost, causing us to wonder whether the spirits are reflections of a tortured psyche." In Hollywood's Stephen King, Tony Magistrale writes:
Kubrick's reliance on mirrors as visual aids for underscoring the thematic meaning of this film portrays visually the internal transformations and oppositions that are occurring to Jack Torrance psychologically. Through...these devices, Kubrick dramatizes the hotel's methodical assault on Torrance's identity, its ability to stimulate the myriad of self-doubts and anxieties by creating opportunities to warp Torrance's perspective on himself and [his family]. Furthermore the fact that Jack looks into a mirror whenever he "speaks" to the hotel means, to some extent, that Kubrick implicates him directly into the hotel's "consciousness", because Jack is, in effect, talking to himself.
Ghosts are the implied explanation for Jack's escape from the locked storeroom. In an interview by scholar Michel Ciment, Kubrick stated:
It seemed to strike an extraordinary balance between the psychological and the supernatural in such a way as to lead you to think that the supernatural would eventually be explained by the psychological: 'Jack must be imagining these things because he's crazy.' This allowed you to suspend your doubt of the supernatural until you were so thoroughly into the story that you could accept it almost without noticing...It's not until Grady, the ghost of the former caretaker who axed to death his family, slides open the bolt of the larder door, allowing Jack to escape, that you are left with no other explanation but the supernatural.
Early in the film, Stuart Ullman tells Jack of a previous caretaker, Charles Grady, who, in 1970, succumbed to cabin fever, murdered his family and then killed himself. Later, Jack meets a ghostly butler named Grady. Jack says he knows about the murders, claiming to recognize Grady from pictures; however, the butler introduces himself as Delbert Grady.
Gordon Dahlquist of The Kubrick FAQ argues that the name change "deliberately mirrors Jack Torrance being both the husband of Wendy/father of Danny and the mysterious man in the July Fourth photo. It is to say he is two people: the man with choice in a perilous situation and the man who has 'always' been at the Overlook. It's a mistake to see the final photo as evidence that the events of the film are predetermined: Jack has any number of moments where he can act other than the way he does, and that his (poor) choices are fueled by weakness and fear perhaps merely speaks all the more to the questions about the personal and the political that The Shining brings up. In the same way Charles had a chance – once more, perhaps – to not take on Delbert's legacy, so Jack may have had a chance to escape his role as 'caretaker' to the interests of the powerful. It's the tragic course of this story that he chooses not to." Dahlquist's argument is that Delbert Grady, the 1920s butler, and Charles Grady, the 1970s caretaker, rather than being either two different people or the same are two 'manifestations' of a similar entity; a part permanently at the hotel (Delbert) and the part which is given the choice of whether to join the legacy of the hotel's murderous past (Charles), just as the man in the photo is not exactly Jack Torrance, but nor is he someone entirely different. Jack in the photo has 'always' been at the Overlook, Jack the caretaker chooses to become part of the hotel. The film's assistant editor Gordon Stainforth has commented on this issue, attempting to steer a course between the continuity-error explanation on one side and the hidden-meaning explanation on the other; "I don't think we'll ever quite unravel this. Was his full name Charles Delbert Grady? Perhaps Charles was a sort of nickname? Perhaps Ullman got the name wrong? But I also think that Stanley did NOT want the whole story to fit together too neatly, so [it is] absolutely correct, I think, to say that 'the sum of what we learn refuses to add up neatly'."
Kubrick's other doubling/mirroring effects in the film:
- "Jack's interview with Ullman, whose confident affability contrasts with Jack's unconvincing nonchalance, pairs off with the meeting between Wendy and a female doctor, whose somber and professional womanhood reacts in stunned disbelief to Wendy's explanation for an old injury inflicted on Danny by his drunken father.
- During the interview, Jack and Ullman are joined by a hotel employee named Bill Watson, whose only real distinction (and function) is his striking physical resemblance to Jack, especially when seen from behind.
- The Grady sisters who look like twins but who are actually doubles (their ages of eight and ten are established in Jack's interview with Ullman).
- On two occasions Ullman says goodbye to two young female employees.
- In the Miami bedroom, two paintings showing a black nude woman on opposite walls (mirroring) are seen just before Hallorann experiences a "shining".
- Two versions of the same nude woman inhabit the green bathroom in Room 237.
- The film not only contains two mazes (the hedges outside, which are, appropriately, 13 feet high, and the model inside), but the Overlook itself is a maze and, significantly, breaks down into two sections, one old and one remodeled, one past, one present. (During Wendy's initial tour of the kitchen with Hallorann she remarks that it is like a maze, and she later characterizes the fast-emptying hotel as "like a ghost ship".)
- There are two Jack Torrances, the one who goes mad and freezes to death in present time and the one who appears in a 1921 photograph that hangs on the gold corridor wall inside the Overlook."
At the end of the film, the camera moves slowly towards a wall in the Overlook and a 1921 photograph, revealed to include Jack Torrance seen at the middle of a 1921 party. In an interview with Michel Ciment, Kubrick overtly declared that the photograph suggests that Jack was a reincarnation of an earlier official at the hotel. Still, this has not stopped interpreters from developing alternative readings, such as that Jack has been "absorbed" into the Overlook Hotel. Film critic Jonathan Romney, while acknowledging the absorption theory, wrote
As the ghostly butler Grady (Philip Stone) tells him during their chilling confrontation in the men's toilet, 'You're the caretaker, sir. You've always been the caretaker.' Perhaps in some earlier incarnation Jack really was around in 1921, and it's his present-day self that is the shadow, the phantom photographic copy. But if his picture has been there all along, why has no one noticed it? After all, it's right at the center of the central picture on the wall, and the Torrances have had a painfully drawn-out winter of mind-numbing leisure in which to inspect every corner of the place. Is it just that, like Poe's purloined letter, the thing in plain sight is the last thing you see? When you do see it, the effect is so unsettling because you realise the unthinkable was there under your nose – overlooked – the whole time.
Screenwriter Todd Alcott has noted:
Much has been written, some of it quite intelligent, about the spatial anomalies and inconsistencies in The Shining: there are rooms with windows that should not be there and doors that couldn’t possibly lead to anywhere, rooms appear to be in one place in one scene and another place in another, wall fixtures and furniture pieces appear and disappear from scene to scene, props move from one room to another, and the layout of the Overlook makes no physical sense.
Artist Juli Kearns first identified and created maps of spatial discrepancies in the overall layout of the Overlook Hotel location, the interiors of which were constructed in studios in England. These spatial discrepancies included windows appearing in impossible places, such as in Stuart Ullman's office which is surrounded by interior hallways, and apartment doorways positioned in places where they cannot possibly lead to apartments. Rob Ager is another proponent of this theory. Jan Harlan, an Executive Producer on The Shining, was asked about the discontinuity of sets by Xan Brooks of The Guardian and confirmed the discontinuity was intentional, "The set was very deliberately built to be offbeat and off the track, so that the huge ballroom would never actually fit inside. The audience is deliberately made not to know where they're going. People say The Shining doesn't make sense. Well spotted! It's a ghost movie. It's not supposed to make sense." Harlan further elaborated to Kate Abbot for the same newspaper, "Stephen King gave him the go-ahead to change his book, so Stanley agreed – and wrote a much more ambiguous script. It's clear instantly there's something foul going on. At the little hotel, everything is like Disney, all kitsch wood on the outside – but the interiors don't make sense. Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn't fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense."
The film differs from the novel significantly with regard to characterization and motivation of action. The most obvious differences are those regarding the personality of Jack Torrance (the source of much of author Stephen King’s dissatisfaction with the film).
In the film, the motive of the ghosts is apparently to "reclaim" Jack (even though Grady expresses an interest in Danny's "shining" ability), who seems to be a reincarnation of a previous caretaker of the hotel, as suggested by the 1920s photograph of Jack at the end of the film and Jack's repeated claims to have "not just a deja vu". The film is even more focused on Jack (as opposed to Danny) than the novel.
The room number 217 has been changed to 237. Timberline Lodge, located on Mt. Hood in Oregon, was used for the exterior shots of the fictional Overlook Hotel. The Lodge requested that Kubrick not depict Room 217 (featured in the book) in The Shining, because future guests at the Lodge might be afraid to stay there, and a nonexistent room, 237, was substituted in the film. Contrary to the hotel's expectations, Room 217 is requested more often than any other room at Timberline.
There are fringe analyses relating this number change to rumors that Kubrick faked the first moon landing, as there are approximately 237,000 miles between Earth and Moon (average is 238,855 miles) and the movie is a subtle confession of his involvement. Another theory is an obsession with the number 42 and its forms in the movie and the product of the digits in 237 is 42.
The novel presents Jack as initially likable and well-intentioned but haunted by the demons of alcohol and authority issues. Nonetheless, he becomes gradually overwhelmed by the evil forces in the hotel. At the novel's conclusion, the hotel forces have possessed Jack's body and proceed to destroy all that is left of his mind during a final showdown with Danny, leaving a monstrous entity that Danny is able to divert while he, Wendy and Dick Halloran escape. The film's Jack is established as somewhat sinister much earlier in the story and dies in a different manner. Jack actually kills Dick Hallorann in the film, but only wounds him in the novel. King attempted to talk Stanley Kubrick out of casting Jack Nicholson even before filming began, on the grounds that he seemed vaguely sinister from the very beginning of the film, and had suggested Jon Voight among others for the role.
Only in the novel does Jack hear the haunting, heavy-handed voice of his father with whom he had a troubled relationship. In both the novel and film, Jack's encounter with the ghostly bartender is pivotal to Jack's deterioration. However, the novel gives much more detail about Jack's problems with drinking and alcohol.
The film prolongs Jack's struggle with writer's block. Kubrick's co-screenwriter Diane Johnson believes that in King's novel, Jack's discovery of the scrapbook of clippings in the boiler room of the hotel which gives him new ideas for a novel catalyzes his possession by the ghosts of the hotel, while at the same time unblocking his writing. Jack is no longer a blocked writer, but now filled with energy. In her contribution to the screenplay, Johnson wrote an adaptation of this scene, which to her regret Kubrick later excised, as she felt this left the father's change less motivated. Kubrick showed Jack's continued blockage quite late in the film with the "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" scene, which does not appear in the novel.
Stephen King has openly stated on the DVD commentary of the 1997 mini-series of The Shining that the character of Jack Torrance was partially autobiographical, as he was struggling with both alcoholism and unprovoked rage toward his family at the time of writing. Tony Magistrale wrote about Kubrick's version of Jack Torrance in Hollywood's Stephen King:
Kubrick's version of Torrance is much closer to the tyrannical Hal (from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Alex (from Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange) than he is to King's more conflicted, more sympathetically human characterization.
From Thomas Allen Nelson's Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze: "When Jack moves through the reception area on his way to a 'shining' over the model maze, he throws a yellow tennis ball past a stuffed bear and Danny's Big Wheel, which rests on the very spot (a Navajo circle design) where Hallorann will be murdered." Jack's tennis ball mysteriously rolls into Danny's circle of toy cars just before the boy walks through the open door of Room 237.
"In the film's opening, the camera from above moves over water and through mountains with the ease of a bird in flight. Below, on a winding mountain road, Jack's diminutive yellow Volkswagen journeys through a tree-lined maze, resembling one of Danny's toy cars or the yellow tennis ball seen later outside of Room 237."
Danny Torrance is considerably more open about his supernatural abilities in the novel, discussing them with strangers such as his doctor. In the film, he is quite secretive about them even with his prime mentor Dick Halloran, who also has these abilities. (The same is true of Dick Halloran, who in his journey back to the Overlook in the book, talks with others with the "shining" ability, while in the film he lies about his reason for returning to the Overlook.) Danny in the novel is generally portrayed as unusually intelligent across the board. In the film, he is more ordinary, though with a preternatural gift. In the novel, Danny is much more bonded to his father than in the film.
Although Danny has supernatural powers in both versions, the novel makes it clear that his apparent imaginary friend "Tony" really is a projection of hidden parts of his own psyche, though heavily amplified by Danny's psychic "shining" abilities. At the end it is revealed that Danny Torrance's middle name is "Anthony".
Wendy Torrance in the film is relatively meek, submissive, passive, gentle, and mousy; this is shown by the way she defends Jack even in his absence to the doctor examining Danny. It is implied she has perhaps been abused by him as well. In the novel, she is a far more self-reliant and independent personality who is tied to Jack in part by her poor relationship with her parents. In the novel, she never displays hysteria or collapses the way she does in the film, but remains cool and self-reliant. Writing in Hollywood's Stephen King, author Tony Magistrale writes about the mini-series remake:
De Mornay restores much of the steely resilience found in the protagonist of King's novel and this is particularly noteworthy when compared to Shelley Duvall's exaggerated portrayal of Wendy as Olive Oyl revisited: A simpering fatality of forces beyond her capacity to understand, much less surmount.
Co-screenwriter Diane Johnson stated that in her contributions to the script, Wendy had more dialogue, and that Kubrick cut many of her lines, possibly due to his dissatisfaction with actress Shelley Duvall's delivery. Johnson believes the earlier draft of the script portrayed Wendy as a more-rounded character.
In the novel, Jack's authority issues are triggered by the fact that his interviewer, Ullman, is highly authoritarian, a kind of snobbish martinet. The film's Ullman is far more humane and concerned about Jack's well-being, as well as smooth and self-assured. Only in the novel does Ullman state that he disapproves of hiring Jack but higher authorities have asked that Jack be hired. Ullman's bossy nature in the novel is one of the first steps in Jack's deterioration, whereas in the film, Ullman serves largely as an expositor.
In Stanley Kubrick and the Art of Adaptation, author Greg Jenkins writes "A toadish figure in the book, Ullman has been utterly reinvented for the film; he now radiates charm, grace and gentility."
From Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze: Ullman tells Jack that the hotel's season runs from May 15 to October 30, meaning the Torrances moved in on Halloween. On Ullmann's desk next to a small American flag sits a metal cup containing pencils and a pen—and a miniature replica of an ax.
"When Ullman, himself all smiles, relates as a footnote the story about the former caretaker who 'seemed perfectly normal' but nevertheless cut up his family with an ax, Jack's obvious interest (as if he's recalling one of his own nightmares) and his insincere congeniality (early signs of a personality malfunction) lead the viewer to believe that the film's definition of his madness will be far more complex."
Stephen King provides the reader with a great deal of information about the stress in the Torrance family early in the story, including revelations of Jack's physical abuse of Danny and Wendy's fear of Danny's mysterious spells. Kubrick tones down the early family tension and reveals family disharmony much more gradually than does King. In the film, Danny has a stronger emotional bond with Wendy than with Jack, which fuels Jack's rather paranoid notion that the two are conspiring against him.
In the novel Jack recovers his sanity and goodwill through the intervention of Danny while this does not occur in the film. Writing in Cinefantastique magazine, Frederick Clarke suggests "Instead of playing a normal man who becomes insane, Nicholson portrays a crazy man attempting to remain sane." In the novel, Jack's final act is to enable Wendy and Danny to escape the hotel before it explodes due to a defective boiler, killing him. The film ends with the hotel still standing. More broadly, the defective boiler is a major element of the novel's plot, entirely missing from the film version.
Because of the limitations of special effects at the time, the living topiary animals of the novel were omitted and a hedge maze was added, acting as a final trap for Jack Torrance as well as a refuge for Danny.
In the film, the hotel possibly derives its malevolent energy from being built on an Indian burial ground. In the novel, the reason for the hotel's manifestation of evil is possibly explained by a theme present in King's previous novel Salem's Lot as well as Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House: a physical place may absorb the evils that transpire there and manifest them as a vaguely sentient malevolence. The film's Hallorann speaks to Danny about that phenomenon occurring at the Overlook. In the novel, Jack does a great deal of investigation of the hotel's past through a scrapbook, a subplot almost omitted from the film aside from two touches: a brief appearance of the scrapbook beside the typewriter, and Jack's statement to the ghost of Grady that he knows his face from an old newspaper article describing the latter's horrific acts. Kubrick in fact shot a scene where Jack discovers the scrapbook but removed it during post-production, a decision which co-screenwriter Diane Johnson lamented.
Some of the film's most famous iconic scenes, such as the ghost girls in the hallway and the torrent of blood from the elevators, are unique to the film. The most notable of these would be the typewritten pages Wendy discovers on Jack's desk. Similarly, many of the most memorable lines of dialogue ("Words of wisdom" and "Here's Johnny!") are heard exclusively in the film.
Although Stephen King fans were critical of the novel's adaptation on the grounds that Kubrick altered and reduced the novel's themes, a defense of Kubrick's approach was made in Steve Biodrowski's review of the film. He argues that as in earlier films, Kubrick stripped out the back story of the film, reducing it down to a "basic narrative line", making the characters more like archetypes. His review of the film is one of the few to go into detailed comparison with the novel. He writes, "The result ...[is] a brilliant, ambitious attempt to shoot a horror film without the Gothic trappings of shadows and cobwebs so often associated with the genre."
Both parodies and homages to The Shining are prominent in UK and U.S. popular culture, particularly in films, TV shows, video games and music. Images and scenes frequently referenced are: the Grady girls in the hallway, the word "Redrum", the blood spilling out of the elevator doors and Jack sticking his head through the hole in the bathroom door, saying, "Here's Johnny." The tricycle scene in which Danny sees the Grady girls and the "here's Johnny" scene are seen on a drive-in theatre screen in the movie Twister just before a tornado rips the screen down.
Director Tim Burton (who credits Kubrick as an influence) modeled the characters of Tweedledum and Tweedledee on the Grady girls in his version of Alice in Wonderland (like so many viewers of the film, Burton identifies the girls as twins in spite of Ullman's dialogue to the contrary).
The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror V" includes a parody titled "The Shinning". In addition, Sherri and Terri, the twins in Bart's 4th grade class, are visually similar to the Grady girls.
Remington Steele episode "Etched In Steele" includes a reference to The Shining when Steele uses one of his customary cinematic references to explain the concept of writer's block to his colleague Laura Holt.
Five episodes of the drama Gilmore Girls reference the film. One episode contains Lorelai's line "Well, we like our Internet slow, okay? We can turn it on, walk around, dance, make a sandwich. With DSL, there's no dancing, no walking, and we'd starve. It'd be all work and no play. Have you not seen The Shining, Mom?"
Kate Bush's 1982 album The Dreaming contains the song "Get Out of My House", inspired primarily by the novel.
Sound clips of Ullman warning Jack about cabin fever with Jack's reassurances appear in Swedish goth band Katatonia's song "Endtime" on the album Brave Murder Day.
The plot of the film is the basis for the music video for "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars.
American heavy metal band Slipknot pay homage to the film in their first music video for their song "Spit It Out", directed by Thomas Mignone. The video consists of conceptual imagery of the bandmembers each portraying characters enacting iconic scenes from the film, with Joey Jordison as Danny Torrance; Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn as the Grady twins; Corey Taylor as Jack Torrance; Mick Thomson as Lloyd the Bartender; Craig Jones as Dick Hallorann; James Root as Wendy Torrance; Paul Gray as Harry Derwent; and Sid Wilson as the corpse in the bathtub. The video was banned from MTV for overtly graphic and violent depictions, including Corey Taylor's smashing through a door with an axe and the scene wherein James Root viciously assaults Corey Taylor with a baseball bat. Mignone and the band eventually re-edited a less violent version, which was subsequently aired on MTV.
"Here's Johnny!" was parodied by British comedian Lenny Henry in a controversial advertisement for Premier Inn.
Johnny Cage parodies the "here's Johnny" scene as part of his fatality in Mortal Kombat X where he shoves his hands behind the opponent in which he then says the line by peeping his face through the opened torso.
In the Scream Queens episode "Pumpkin Patch", Chanel demands that her pumpkin patch party have an exact replica of the hedge maze which plays a central part of the episode. Also in the episode, Chanel #5 has two twin boyfriends, Rodger and Dodger.
The Little Sisters in the fallen underwater utopia Rapture, introduced in the 2007 video game BioShock, were partly inspired by the Grady twins.
The Angry Birds Movie contains a scene with two pigs dressed as the Grady sisters.
The song "Enjoy Your Slay" by American metalcore band Ice Nine Kills is inspired primarily by the novel as well as the film adaption. The song also features Stanley Kubrick's grandson Sam Kubrick as guest vocalist.
The tv show "Psych" has an episode titled "Heeeeere's Lassie" in which the plot and characters are based on film.