The Shining (1980) is creative director Stanley Kubrick’s intense, epic, gothic horror film and haunted house masterpiece – a beautiful, stylish work that distanced itself from the blood-letting and gore of most modern films in the horror genre. (The film waits until its climax to provide the typical catharctic bloody violence of most traditional horror films – and with restraint – only one murder!)
The film’s source material from science-fiction/horror author Stephen King’s 1977 best-selling novel (his third novel under his own name) by the same name, bears little resemblance to Kubrick’s creation. A four and one-half hour long, made-for-TV mini-series titled Stephen King’s The Shining (1997), (with Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay), due to King’s dissatisfaction, was a more literal rendering of the original source material, and included a famous topiary-animal attack scene.
With American co-screenwriter Diane Johnson, Kubrick moved from the conventions of traditional horror film thrillers, displacing them with his own, much more subtle, rich, symbolic motifs. [The title of the film was inspired by the refrain in the Plastic Ono Band’s song by John Lennon, “Instant Karma,” from the chorus: “We all shine on.”]
As in many of his films, director Kubrick explores the dimensions of the genre to create the ultimate horror film of a man going mad due to many factors (including alcohol abuse), aspiring writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson), while serving as an off-season caretaker of an isolated, snowbound resort (the Overlook) with his family: wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). They soon become affected by a “psychic photograph” of a bloody series of historic murders committed there. The film’s title refers to the extra-sensory, paranormal psychic abilities possessed by the Overlook Hotel’s head cook Halloran (Scatman Crothers) and the young boy.
After writing Carrie and Salem’s Lot, both of which are set in small towns in King’s home state of Maine, King was looking for a change of pace for the next book. “I wanted to spend a year away from Maine so that my next novel would have a different sort of background.” King opened an atlas of the US on the kitchen table and randomly pointed to a location, which turned out to be Boulder, Colorado. So in early 1974, King and his wife, Tabitha, and their two children, Naomi and Joe, moved across the country to Colorado.
Around Halloween, Tabitha decided that the adult Kings needed a mini-vacation and, on the advice of locals, they decided to try out a resort hotel adjacent to Estes Park, Colorado reported to be haunted (nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountain National Park) called the Stanley Hotel (pictured above). On October 30, 1974, Stephen and Tabitha checked into the Stanley. They almost were not able to check in as the hotel was closing for the off season the next day and the credit card slips had already been packed away.
Stephen and Tabitha were the only two guests in the hotel that night. “When we arrived, they were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place — with all those long, empty corridors . . .” They checked into room 217 which they found out was said to be haunted. This is where room 217 comes from in the book.
Tabitha and Stephen had dinner that evening in the grand dining room, totally alone. They were offered one choice for dinner, the only meal still available. Taped orchestral music played in the room and theirs was the only table set for dining. “Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things. And by the time I went to bed that night, I had the whole book in my mind”.
After dinner, Tabitha decided to turn in, but Stephen took a walk around the empty hotel. He ended up in the bar and was served drinks by a bartender named Grady.
“That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” or, rather, a homicidal boy in Stanley Kubrick’s eerie 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel. With wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and psychic son Danny (Danny Lloyd) in tow, frustrated writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as the winter caretaker at the opulently ominous, mountain-locked Overlook Hotel so that he can write in peace.
Before the Overlook is vacated for the Torrances, the manager (Barry Nelson) informs Jack that a previous caretaker went crazy and slaughtered his family; Jack thinks it’s no problem, but Danny’s “shining” hints otherwise. Settling into their routine, Danny cruises through the empty corridors on his Big Wheel and plays in the topiary maze with Wendy, while Jack sets up shop in a cavernous lounge with strict orders not to be disturbed.
Danny’s alter ego, “Tony,” however, starts warning of “redrum” as Danny is plagued by more blood-soaked visions of the past, and a blocked Jack starts visiting the hotel bar for a few visions of his own. Frightened by her husband’s behavior and Danny’s visit to the forbidding Room 237, Wendy soon discovers what Jack has really been doing in his study all day, and what the hotel has done to Jack