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The Shining’s horror lies in its fractured nuclear family

This article is over 9 years, 9 months old
Ken Olende welcomes an overdue full-length release for Kubrick’s classic film
Issue 2327
A scene from The Shining
A scene from The Shining

The Shining is all about contrasts. It feels like an epic but zooms in on a disintegrating nuclear family. It is about secrets and abuse—but everything happens in plain sight.

The 1980 US release of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece met with criticism for being too slow paced. Some 24 minutes were cut before its British release. But now the full version is showing in cinemas here for the first time.

The scenes removed related the atmosphere within the film’s central family—the little boy, Danny and his mother Wendy watching TV, or a nervous Wendy evasively telling a doctor how Danny’s father Jack had “accidentally” injured him while drunk.

Jack wants to be a writer. He agrees to caretake a hotel in the Colorado mountains over the closed winter season, cut off from civilisation for months.

A previous caretaker chopped up his wife and daughters. Is Danny scared because he’s aware of ghosts that others can’t see? Or is this the trauma of an abused child?

When ghosts do appear you jump, but the real horror lies in the fractured family rather than the corridors washed in blood.

The ghosts take Jack back to a more certain world—one where women and black people knew their place and no one criticised a man for hitting his child. He sinks into disgusting misogynist banter with a ghost, dismissing Wendy as the “sperm bank upstairs”.

Kubrick plays with expectations. Traditional dark corridors and shadows are replaced with bright colours and bright lights. The 1970s decor is more horrific now than he intended.

Wendy is presented as a cliched victim, but she shows the greatest resourcefulness. And unusually for a horror film, The Shining becomes scarier with repeated viewings.

The Shining is in cinemas now


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