“Transporting…witty, poignant and sparkling.”
―People (People Picks Book of the Week)
“Prescient and quick....A perfect fusing of subject and writer, idea and ideal.”
“Extraordinary…hilarious…Elegantly written, Rooney creates a glorious paean to a distant literary life and time―and an unabashed celebration of human connections that bridge past and future.
―Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed)
"Rooney's delectably theatrical fictionalization is laced with strands of tart poetry and emulates the dark sparkle of Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Truman Capote. Effervescent with verve, wit, and heart, Rooney’s nimble novel celebrates insouciance, creativity, chance, and valor."
―Booklist (starred review)
“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”
She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”
Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now―her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl―but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed―and has not.
A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.
The Shining is a 1980 horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson. The film is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name.
The Shining is about Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the isolated historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Wintering over with Jack is his wife Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), who possesses "the shining", an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel's horrific past. The hotel's current cook, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), also has this ability and is able to telepathically communicate with Danny. The hotel had a previous winter caretaker who went crazy and killed his wife, two daughters and then himself. After a winter storm leaves the Torrances snowbound, Jack's sanity deteriorates due to the influence of the supernatural forces that inhabit the hotel, placing his wife and son in danger. Supporting roles are provided by Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, and Tony Burton.
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 an old photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles front and center amid a crowd of party revelers at the Overlook.
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 says he thinks they were "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 film 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, and that the shoot day lasted from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with Turkel recollecting that his clothes were soaked in his own sweat by the end of the 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 Bourconducting 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, and German, because the film would be dubbed in these languages in their respective countries. 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.[not in citation given] Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gave the film a 'Certified Fresh' score of 87% based on 70 reviews with an average rating of 8.4/10, with the consensus; "Though it deviates from Stephen King's novel, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a chilling, often baroque journey into madness -- exemplified by an unforgettable turn from Jack Nicholson".
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.
Analysis of change in perception
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.
Response by Stephen King
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."
Awards and nominations
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 Amerindian logos on the baking powder in the kitchen, and the Amerindian 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.
Also likely significant is that before Jack's behavior starts becoming aberrant, he is seen throwing a tennis ball hard against Amerindian artwork on the walls and floor, and just a few feet over a mounted buffalo head (which was an animal key to the Plains Indians' economy and culture before it was hunted and slaughtered nearly to extinction in the 19th century, mostly by Euro-Americans). Later, Jack murders Halloran, and tries to murder his family, using an axe, which resembles the tomahawk, a frequently depicted weapon of the Amerindians.
Film writer John Capo sees the film as an allegory of American imperialism. This is exemplified by many clues, such as 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,