Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Shining (1980)

Fig. 1: The Shining Original Theatrical Poster
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a film that everyone will have seen parts of in one way or another, as parodies and references to the film's more well known scenes show up in many other films and TV shows such as The Simpsons, NBC's Hannibal (fig. 2 and 3), and Bob's Burgers (fig. 4). It is unlikely that anyone who watches the film now will not recognise at least one scene from somewhere. 

One bathroom homage to The Shining just wasn’t enough for Bryan Fuller.: Hannibabe Lecter, Bathroom Homage, Sweet Psychopath, Google Search, Hannibal Fannibal, Stag House, Wolf Trap, Beautiful FilmsFull size image
Fig. 2 and 3: Set design in Hannibal replicating The Shining.

Hannibal's writer and producer, Bryan Fuller: "I’ve been wanting to do the bathroom [set] forever...Every show I’ve done I wanted to build a bathroom that looked like that space. What’s so remarkable about it is it’s a purely psychological space. You were inside this secret corner of Jack Torrance’s mind where the ghost of Overlook’s past has cornered him and is having a conversation about killing his family. It’s almost like a fantasy bathroom that actually doesn’t exist in reality because it’s anachronistic to the rest of the ballroom – it’s such a stark juxtaposition to everything else that we’re seeing at the hotel. It’s like they dipped the entire set in blood." (Hibberd, 2013)

Fig. 4: Bar scene in Bob's Burgers.

The Shining's Overlook Hotel is still regarded as one of the most stunningly designed and horrifying sets in film, "Instead of the cramped darkness and panicky quick editing of the standard-issue scary movie, Kubrick gives us the eerie, colossal, brilliantly lit spaces of the Overlook Hotel (created in Elstree Studios, Hertfordshire), shot with amplitude and calm." (Bradshaw, 2012). Every single room and corridor seems to have a completely different design and colour scheme, and it feels strange that all these rooms exist in one hotel. The differences in design and colour give each room a different ambiance, something that would be difficult to achieve had they given the hotel's rooms a set shape and colour scheme as is often typical of hotels today. The different designs also make each space feel like it belongs to someone, something that's reinforced by visions of ghosts who occupy the hotel, making the presence of Danny, Wendy and Jack almost like an intrusion in someone's home. 

Fig. 5: Danny encounters the twins.
Fig. 6: Danny plays in the corridor.
However, rooms such as room 237 and the red bathroom (fig.3), are only seen from Jack's perspective, so it's debatable if what we see in the film is what they truly look like, or if they even exist at all. Perhaps the hotel does have a strict design and colour scheme, and what the audience sees are the "ghosts" of what the rooms looked like in the past. This would make sense, as the hotel would no doubt have each room redecorated after each tragedy. This is also reinforced by the scene in which Danny sees the twins; all the corridors in the hotel are white with black doors (fig. 6), except for the corridor where he sees the twins, which has floral wallpaper and cream doors (fig. 5). "When [Roy] Walker set about designing the film’s rooms, he took inspiration from real hotel rooms from around America, and went all over the country photographing different interiors. On his return, Kubrick leafed through the pictures, chose the ones he liked, and had his production team construct rooms that looked exactly the same." (Lambie, 2011)

Overlook Hotel Hall Shot
Fig. 7: The main hall.
The Overlook Hotel is built on an ancient Native American burial ground, and much of the interior decor in the large hall where Jack spends most of his time (fig. 7) has the geometric shapes seen in some Native American art. From the start, the hotel is built on death, and as is typical of stories about places built on burial grounds, there is a strong suggestion the hotel is cursed. Geometric designs continue throughout the hotel, with the famous orange, brown and red carpet (fig. 6) that we often see Danny travelling down on his trike. 

The Shining Danny
Fig. 8: Jack and Danny.
There is relatively little backstory for the characters in the film, except for the bar scene, where Jack tells Lloyd the bartender about one time when he hit Danny out of frustration. Other than that, it's up to the audience to determine the kind of relationship the characters have. From the beginning, it's fairly obvious that Jack doesn't care for his wife, seeming to only find her irritatingly optimistic and blaming her for his writer's block. The relationship between Danny and Jack is more difficult to work out at first, but after some time in the hotel, Danny shows signs he is afraid of his father, asking if Jack would ever want to hurt Danny or his mother. Jack responds to this by asking if it was Wendy who told Danny his father might want to hurt him, reinforcing the idea that Jack dislikes his wife and blames her for his problems. In the bar scene, when Jack talks about when he hit Danny, he says his wife will never let him live it down, and that hitting Danny was an accident caused by him scattering his papers, showing again that Jack blames others for his actions. There is also some suggestion that Jack knew about the tragedies that occurred in the hotel; his lack of surprise when he is told about the allegedly most recent murder, the fact that he recognises the ghosts in the hotel, including Lloyd the bartender and Grady, whom he claims he remembers from a newspaper article about him killing his family. If Jack knew about this, did he bring his family here on purpose?

Fig. 9: Jack, Danny and Wendy travel to the Overlook Hotel.
Overall, the characters don't fit together as well as the rest of the film. Jack and Wendy's relationship doesn't seem to make sense, and it feels as though the actors were chosen based on their ability to play their given characters and not based on any chemistry between them, which is nonexistent; "Jack sits at a typewriter in the great hall, pounding relentlessly at his typewriter, while Wendy and Danny put together a version of everyday life that includes breakfast cereal, toys and a lot of TV. There is no sense that the three function together as a loving family." (Ebert, 2006). We also never see evidence of a time when Jack and Wendy may have loved each other, instead they stand awkwardly next to each other during the tour of the hotel and occasionally engage in conversation that resembles something a husband and wife might say to one another. Lack of backstory also means it is difficult to understand what the characters were like before; as far as anyone knows, Jack has always been an angry, borderline abusive husband, so there is no noticeable change in character. "The evil may have always been there in Jack, The Overlook merely awakened it." (Nathan, 2012).

The Shining will always be regarded as one of Kubrick's best films, especially based on the set design and style of filming. The characters are memorable, but the Overlook Hotel will always be the highlight of the film.

Figure 1. The Shining Original Theatrical Poster (1980) [Poster] At: (Accessed on: 24.11.15)

Figure 2. Set design in Hannibal replicating The Shining. (2013) From: Hannibal. Directed by: Various Directors. [TV Still] Canada: NBC. At: (Accessed on: 25.11.15)

Figure 3. Set design in Hannibal replicating The Shining. (2013) From: Hannibal. Directed by: Various Directors. [TV Still] Canada: NBC. At: (Accessed on: 25.11.15)

Figure 4. Bar scene in Bob's Burgers. (2011) From: Bob's Burgers. Directed by: Unknown [TV Still] United States: Fox. At: (Accessed on: 25.11.15)

Figure 5. Danny encounters the twins. (1980) From: The Shining. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. [Film Still] United Kingdom/United States: Warner Bros. At:
(Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Figure 6. Danny plays in the corridor. (1980) From: The Shining. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. [Film Still] United Kingdom/United States: Warner Bros. At:
(Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Figure 7. The main hall. (1980) From: The Shining. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. [Film Still] United Kingdom/United States: Warner Bros. At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Figure 8. Jack and Danny. (1980) From: The Shining. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. [Film Still] United Kingdom/United States: Warner Bros. At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Figure 9. Jack, Danny and Wendy travel to the Overlook Hotel. (1980) From: The Shining. Directed by: Stanley Kubrick. [Film Still] United Kingdom/United States: Warner Bros. At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Hibberd, J. (2013) 'NBC's 'Hannibal' contains 'The Shining' shout-outs'. In: Entertainment Weekly 04.04.13 [Online] At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Lambie, R. (2011) 'Iconic set design: The Shining's Overlook Hotel'. In 03.11.11 [Online] At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Ebert, R. (2006) 'The Shining' In: 18.06.06 [Online] At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Bradshaw, P. (2012) 'The Shining - review' In: The Guardian 01.11.12 [Online] At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)

Nathan, I. (2012) 'The Shining Review' In: Empire 01.01.12 [Online] At: (Accessed on: 26.11.15)


  1. I enjoyed this Eleanor; thoughtful and inquisitive, and I liked your linking to the various homages in other shows - I didn't know about the bathroom in Hannibal, as I haven't watched that show yet, but had I been watching it one night, I would have indeed leapt off the sofa spluttering 'That's the toilet from The Shining!" :)

  2. Excellent, Eleanor :) I really enjoyed reading this...