Whenever I hear the word “Redrum,” it immediately sends a chill down my spine. I immediately think of elevator doors opening and a wave of red pouring out, or I hear the chipping away of a wooden door by an axe, followed by the immortal “Here’s Johnny!” This is the lasting effect that Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece film has on its viewers.
The Shining is consistently rated by critics as one of the best horror films ever made. What’s ironic to me is that the plot doesn’t seem that scary: a young family spends the winter looking over a hotel while the father (portrayed by legendary actor Jack Nicholson in one of his most memorable roles) slowly but surely spirals into unparalleled insanity right before our very eyes. Ok, great. He’s no Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. I’d take my chances with a glorified hotel babysitter over a disfigured homicidal maniac any day of the week. But you’d be wrong to assume that this film is not nearly as terrifying as a slasher flick. From the very first scene of Jack Torrance accepting the caretaker position at the Overlook Hotel, the audience feels in their bones that everything will eventually go wrong. The long, abandoned hallways; the prolonged silence that makes us toss and turn in our seats; the eerie little details that add up to some pretty major scares. It’s a barrage of screams and gasps waiting to happen.
What makes The Shining so dreadfully spectacular is the blurred line between realism and fantasy. Is the hotel actually haunted, or is it simply a case of cabin fever gone horribly, horribly wrong? Ask anyone who’s seen the film and they may argue for one side or the other. We as the audience are left to determine what is really going on so that, essentially, we are making our own horror film. It’s only as scary as we want it to be. And that’s the beauty of it. There have been many different interpretations about what the film is really about over the years. Some argue that it’s a film about the genocide of the Native Americans, while others choose to view it as a movie about the Holocaust. Some even believe it is Stanley Kubrick’s confession to filming the Apollo 11 moon landings. Everything in the film is open to different emotions and interpretations, and if you see it more than once you’ll more than likely latch on to new details and form a different opinion of the movie.
In my case, I can watch the scene were Torrance’s wife Wendy finally confronts her husband about his mental state, and sometimes I’ll be scared out of my mind. But other times, I may just laugh at how silly the scene seems. It’s hard not to when Nicholson is clearly having so much fun with spiraling out of his mind. Does that make me insane? Would people in the audience look at me and wonder if I’m the one who’s actually losing his grip on reality? This is the effect of The Shining. Eventually it gets to the point where we lose our grip on what we believe is real in the film.
Movies in Ocean City
The Shining plays at Fox Sun and Surf Cinema on October 26th at 10 p.m. as part of the theater’s TMC Classics program. OceanCity.com welcomes new writers on all topics. Click here for more information on becoming an OceanCity.com contributor.