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'The Shining 1980' Mundane Madness 30/11/2015

Fig 1: 'The Shining 1980' Poster
This film review will focus on how the father, the mother and the son are portrayed as a hierarchy, the hotel's influence on its inhabitance and the designs of the sets in the film. The film was made in 1980, was directed by Stanley Kubrick and Roy Walker was the art director. The Shining is one of the most recognisable, if not the most recognisable horror films of all time, the acting for the film was brutal and the acting was so real that at times it could make you feel a little ill "In accordance with the Kubrick legend, the process of making the movie took meticulousness to staggering levels — Shelley Duvall was reputedly forced to do no less than 127 takes of one scene; Nicholson was force fed endless cheese sandwiches (which he loathes) to generate a sense of inner revulsion, and the recent invention of the Steadicam (by Garret Brown) fuelled Kubrick's obsessive quest for perfection. The result is gloriously precision-made." (Ian Nathan. 2012).

Fig 2: Jack Torrance
Each character in the film has a very symbolic role, Jack Torrance is this dominant, father authority figure, Wendy Torrance is the gentle, reassuring mother figure and Danny Torrance is a symbol of Purity, knowledge and growth. At the start of the film we can see that Jack has a huge amount of power over the other two but ultimately can be moved emotionally and mentally by the the other two. At one point he even has his breakfast in bed and the way he takes it from her is so rude, almost as if its nothing gives him this power that he can do whatever he likes, its almost as if he is some sort of king. As the film progresses we can see slowly he begins to change, when he first applies for the job he is this calm, cool collective guy, but by the end of the film he is a deranged maniac. "The man in question is Jack (Jack Nicholson), possibly an alcoholic and certainly a would-be writer who signs on as winter caretaker of a resort hotel in the Colorado Rockies in order to work on the book that will finally lift him out of the ruck. With him are his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). And they are alone, with the hotel’s memories, which include a previous caretaker who killed himself after chopping up his wife and children." (Derek Malcolm. 2014) The theory of him being some sort of king is reinforced by one scene, the scene of when he looks down the model of the maze. The maze is dead straight and symmetrical all around, a little bit like a chess board, Wendy and Danny are these two pieces on this massive chessboard but only the wielder can move the pawns, the wielder being Jack. However when confronted with being truth and questions that go against his authority he retaliates with terrifying actions, acting mad, insane, illogical but he still insists one one thing, that he is in the position of authority and he needs to do his job and live up to the responsibility of profit and trust. His main downfall is due to his ignorance of his power, when a king knows there is a problem he should listen to the feedback, adapt and moves on, when Jack is chasing Danny his ultimate downfall is his ignorance and the fact he is willing to do things his own way no matter the cost, anyone who who was a threat to him is dealt with severely, just like Dick Hallorann. Being reckless, aggressive and loyal behaviour is what made his downfall interesting, being consumed and blinded by responsibility, and fulfilling his promise to Stuart Ullman and staying loyal to his word. However whilst at the hotel he is also confronted by madness via isolation, he is given power by madness by being given a very aesthetically pleasing women to make love too, but is quickly and brutally reminded what madness truly is and what he has accepted into himself. He was a king of madness and his ultimate undoing was the madness he had succumb to, that is why that king was destined to fall and claimed as another victim to the hotel.

Fig 3: Wendy Torrance
Wendy is one of the more controversial characters in the film, the stereotype for women in the 1980's was that they were very weak, feeble and gentle people, whereas men were very strong, dominant and brave. The only other film that has had a very strong female protagonist at this point was 'Alien 1979' and that only came out a year before this. However the way Wendy acts is an odd mix of the two, for the majority of the film she is screaming and being absolutely terrified, however throughout the film she is always being the reassuring mother figure towards Danny. She is this lower associate towards Jack as well, like a servant. At the start of the film she is seen at home taking care of the child, what would have been expected from women in the 1980s, they stayed at home and did house work. When she is in the hotel one of the first scenes we see of her is her making breakfast in bed for this 'King', almost like a servant towards Jack. When she confronts Jack about the wellbeing of Danny she becomes terrified about not what might happen to her but has happened to Jack, being with someone for so long and then he immediately changes into this completely different character, even when Jack is shouting and screaming at her she makes no attempt to run but backs away slowly, like Jack is some deranged maddened animal. The most interesting scene that Wendy has to offer though by far is the bathroom scene, she attempts to retreat into the bathroom and in doing so blocks herself in, she makes no attempt to physically retaliate but instead makes her priority 'Get Danny out of harms way', a task she would have been given ever since Danny's birth. She tries to get out of the window after Danny but to no avail, then Jack starts chopping down the door and she immediately switches from this loving mother figure into a petrified little girl, this time no being terrified that Jack has changed immensely but that is about to be diced in two by an axe wielded by her other half.

Fig 4: Danny Torrance
Danny is the most human character in the film, everyone else seems to be very edge and have something to hide, Danny on the other hand is only a child and has not been exposed to any large amount of mental trauma, up until now. So Jack is the King, Wendy is the Servant, so then who is Danny? He is someone who still needs to grow, his two parents are the one who have an immense amount of knowledge to give, but first must be unlocked and understood. Danny is a symbol of innocence and growth, this is shown a number of time throughout the film, however the easiest scene to spot this in is the scene where Jack is chasing down Danny in the maze. As Danny leaves a trail of footprints in the snow Jack uses the footprints to follow him, when Danny gets to the centre of the maze he carefully steps backward into his previous footsteps, covers them up and jumps to the side so its as if he has vanished. Jack being consumed by madness he is very confused by where Danny is, he then resorts to stumbling around only to meet his demise to the harsh, freezing temperatures. His intelligence grows immensely due to the condition he is in and the challenges he faces, seeing dead bodies, discovering his secret power and his own parent trying to kill him. He gets used to seeing the bodied so it does not cloud his judgement, he uses his power to contact Dick and he outsmarts his own father, what's more interesting is now that the 'King' has fallen someone has to take his place. Danny being the one who took down his father is now given the responsibility of taking his place, Jack being overtaken by his own so, so you could say in a way that Jack has helped him, mentally adapt to the future and whatever lies ahead.

Fig 5: Overlook Hotel
The overlook hotel is the final piece of this massive puzzle, in fact the mansion plays a much larger role than originally anticipated, the way its designed is masterful and once seen cannot be unseen. On the outside it looks very similar to the landscape, very dull boring colours that look like it has almost been there for hundreds of years. The inside however is very different, its filled with all sorts of vintage and modern colours. The equipment is state of the art and the whole hotel itself is huge, however the hotel is much more sinister than at first glance. The sheer amount of space means there is a lot of room, when you combine that with the fact there are only a few people living there and there is not to either hear or do its almost like living in solitary confident, which is know to drive people insane. On top of that they get snowed in heavily, meaning that they cannot leave the area for a long time, the only communication they have is a phone to the emergency services, other than that there is nothing. Once again there is the sheer size of the place, when Jack is writing on the typewriter it makes a very distinct clicking noise that could most likely get very annoying very quickly, this may be another reason a to why Jack goes insane, the only thing he can hear is this very sharp, intense clicking noise 24/7. There is no real reason as to why there are hallucinations all over the hotel but with analysis a reasonably accurate hypothesis can be made. "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 partygoers in 1921?" (Roger Ebert. 2006) At the start of the film we see this door frame pouring out with blood for some reason and at the end we see a picture of all the employees of the hotel stating the picture was in 1921. The events we see in the film take place in 1980's, the theory that can be made from this is that by link the wave of blood, the year of the picture and the fact that Jack Torrance is in it is that that picture is a picture of all of the victims that the hotel has consumed over the years. I was said in the film that the hotel was build on ancient burial mounds so there could be some sort of spiritual influence there.


Malcolm, D. (2014) 2 October
'Stanley Kubrick’s the shining - review' In: The Guardian 2 October 2014
[online] At: 
(Accessed on 1.12.15)

Nathan, I (2012) 2 November
The Shining. (2012)
[online] At: 
(Accessed on 1.12.15)

Ebert, R (2006) 18 June
The shining movie review & film summary (1980).
[online] At: 

Image Biblography

Figure 1: The Shining Poster

Figure 2: Jack Torrance

Figure 3: Wendy Torrance

Figure 4: Danny Torrance

Figure 5: The Overlook Hotel


  1. A thorough review Tom :)
    Be careful about introducing characters and not explaining who they are - for example, the name Dick Halloran is suddenly dropped in there, with no details of his role or significance.
    Also, you state that '...the stereotype for women in the 1980's was that they were very weak, feeble and gentle people'. Have you got evidence to back this up as a 'fact'? From my memory, the 80s were exactly the opposite for women - power suits, shoulder pads, increased earning potential etc. If you make a statement like this, you should reference where you found the information, the same way as you would a quote.


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