Genre Criticism of Stanley Kubrick's the Shining

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  • Topic: Stanley Kubrick, The Shining, Overlook Hotel
  • Pages : 5 (1843 words )
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  • Published : May 11, 2005
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The true measure of success for any film lies in its ability to establish a relationship with its audience. Perhaps more than in any other genre, the horror film must be aware of this relationship and manage it carefully. After all, the purpose of a horror film is not necessarily to invoke thought, but rather to evoke an emotional reaction from its audience. Horror films of all types have used frightening images, disturbing characters, and thrilling sequences to inspire fear. Within the genre, "tried and true" methods have become staples in evoking this response from the viewer. From serial killers "around the corner" to monsters under the bed, the horror genre has employed these methods to guarantee a scare from its audience. The result is often a predictable film that only touches the surface of this relationship. Every once in a while, however, a film comes along that explores the possibilities and experiments with the depth of this relationship. Such films are presented in ways to attach themselves inside of the human psyche and remain there long after the film is over. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is one of these films. A true auteur, Kubrick steps into the horror genre and explores the potential of the power of a horror film. Through the use of imagery and sound, Kubrick creates a film that is beautiful, terrifying, and thought provoking. With its use of shot selection, motion, lighting and pace, The Shining defies the conventions of the horror genre to create a unique and captivating film experience. At its core, The Shining is a narrative about a haunted house. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is a man who takes on a job as an off-season caretaker at a huge, isolated resort with a haunting past and brings his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, along to spend a winter alone at the Overlook Hotel. As a struggling writer, he sees the job as an opportunity to work on his writing in a peaceful, serene setting. The supernatural powers of the house and the effects of isolation begin to wield their power over Jack and turn him into a crazed murderous lunatic. His descent into madness ultimately leads him in an attempt to kill his wife and son. The title of the film is derived from Danny's ability to see into the future and communicate with the supernatural. This "shining" serves as a conduit through which the audience is allowed to see the hotel's more disturbing secrets and their effect on its inhabitants. Danny shares this gift with Dick Hallorann, the hotel's head chef. Even after Hallorann leaves the hotel for the winter, the "shining" allows him to foresee the danger for the family. Ultimately, he journeys back to the hotel to protect the family from their impending doom. The narrative is fairly conventional, but the film is made memorable through Stanley Kubrick's unique direction.

The Shining is a visually stunning picture that uses the camera cleverly to create its beautiful shots. The most interesting camera technique employed by Stanley Kubrick is his use of motion. When Jack and his family are taking their initial tour of the hotel, the camera is always moving along with them. This is an effective technique because it expresses the vast and overwhelming size of the hotel. Jack and Wendy seem to be "led" by the camera through the long hallways and enormous rooms of the hotel. Also, the camera often uses wide shots to track their lateral movement. These extreme wide shots accentuate the contrast between their small figures and the large and open space in the hotel. This automatically introduces the vulnerability of this family to the powers of the Overlook Hotel. Kubrick also expresses this idea of vulnerability through the use of aerial shots. In one sequence, Jack is standing over a model of the hotel's maze while Wendy and Danny are outside walking through the real maze. The camera seamlessly cuts from a shot of the model to an exactly replicated aerial shot of the maze outside. Wendy and Danny are shown as...
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