“Heeerre’s October!”

Why The Shining continues to be one of the most unique and immersive horror movies since its release

“Don’t go in there!” you scream in the middle of the theater as the main character of the film walks directly into where the killer clearly is unarmed and unprepared. They open the door and enter a dimly lit stockroom and suddenly they scream and you see the killer pop out of a box before the screen cuts away. You’ve seen it play out so many times to the point where you’re hardly even startled by these cheesy jumpscares. You leave the theater feeling cheated out of what was supposed to be an enjoyable thriller.

Watching modern horror films tends to follow that script. Characters are written with an unrealistic lack of common sense, settings are tired and unimpressive, and the “horror” aspect of the film can be compressed into a five minute compilation of the killer jumping into frame. This trend is what makes going to watch a masterpiece like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining so refreshing and enjoyable.

The Shining stands apart from other horror films in a myriad of ways, most effectively through the soundtrack. A dark, menacing score is played throughout the entire film, never leaving a long period of silence. Instead of only using music when the characters are being immediately threatened, the music echoes even when the characters are safe. This gives the viewer an unbreakable feeling of anxiety as it seems like terror could strike at any moment. There aren’t any lulls in the pacing of the film because the music always keeps the viewer on edge.

The setting and visuals are vibrant and unique, yet creepy and foreboding. The overlook hotel altogether has it’s own level of creepiness- a big hotel built on top of an Indian burial ground that has had murder inside of its walls is more than a sufficient setting for a horror movie. However, the interior of the hotel goes above and beyond. The gold room is the room in which Jack states “I would sell my soul for a drink”, and it’s at this point that Jack seems to really go crazy. The gold room represents and houses previous experiences Jack has had as the old caretaker, and he also meets the old caretaker in there. The gold room not only serves the purpose of housing a lot of the movie’s big scenes, but it does so with a disturbing elegance with its golden themed walls and hanging light fixtures. Another setting that contributes greatly to the movie is the maze. This maze plays a pivotal role in the movie, and nothing is scarier than watching Danny be surrounded by thirteen foot hedges as he tries to escape his crazed father. This maze is said to represent Jack’s mind with its twisted path and confusion. The maze not only brings more horror to this movie, but it also serves as a metaphor. All the scenes contribute in one way or another to the unanswered questions and horror level of The Shining.

The terrifying tone of The Shining is mainly enforced by its characters. Jack, Danny, and Wendy all have the common sense to do exactly what anyone would do in this situation. For instance, Wendy responds to her fear by arming herself with a bat early in the movie, something most horror movie protagonists would fail to think of. These acts of foresight makes them so much more believable and allow the viewer to lose themselves in the world of the movie much more easily. In addition, Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall convey everything the characters are thinking without having to verbally state it to the audience. The choice to internalize most of the character development does wonders for the viewer’s immersion, as they find themselves as confused and scared as the family is.

The Shining stands apart because of its attention to detail and the care that was put into the filming of it. From the unnerving music, to the chilling scenes, to the unspoken complexity of the characters, this movie is two and a half hours of goosebumps and hair raising horror.