Written by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson the film tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer who takes a job as winter caretaker at The Overlook Hotel with the aim of using the time to write his new book. During his interview at the beginning of the film the hotels manager, Stuart Ullman, makes a point of telling him about one of the previous caretakers, Charles Grady, who got cabin fever and killed his family before committing suicide. Jack takes the job anyway and is joined at The Overlook by his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is gifted with supernatural abilities. When the family arrive on the last day of the season Danny meets the head chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who also has the same abilities as Danny and explains that the ability is called ‘Shining’. During their conversation Danny asks about Room 237, Dick tells him the hotel has a ‘Shine’ of it’s own and many memories, not all of which are good, and that he should stay away from Room 237.
As time goes by The Overlook get’s snowed in, becoming more secluded as the telephone lines go down and contact with the outside world becomes more infrequent. Jack takes over The Colorado Lounge, a vast recreation room, to start writing his novel and becomes increasingly frustrated at his inability to make progress. Whilst trying to write Jack is frequently interrupted by Wendy until one day he snaps at her and tells her not to disturb him whilst he’s working, Jack becomes more isolated in the vast room reflecting the increasing isolation of The Overlook itself.
Danny amuses himself during the course of their tenancy by playing in the corridors and rooms of The Overlook but is plagued by visions and nightmares caused by his Shining ability. Eerie music sets the mood for Danny’s ability whilst disturbing images of twin girls, mutilated corpses, and rivers of blood flowing through the corridors of The Overlook flash across the screen. Kubrick plays on the viewers nerves through both the visuals and sound to create an uncomfortable atmosphere to the film rather than using shock tactics to scare the viewer. Long tracking shots are used to great effect in The Shining creating long, drawn out scenes where you wait with bated breath for the pay off. The most famous of these scenes is when the camera follows Danny as he rides his Big Wheel through the corridors of the hotel with the soundtrack alternating between virtual silence as the plastic wheels cross the carpeted areas before exploding with noise when they move onto the wooden floors.
Whilst Kings novel plays up to the supernatural forces existing in The Overlook which first effect Danny, then Jack and finally Wendy, Kubrick’s adaptation plays down this aspect seeming more that the isolation and frustration felt are the causes for Jack’s descent into madness. It’s never made clear as to whether the party goers Jack encounters in The Gold Room in the film are actually spirits or manifestations of his madness and the only shared supernatural encounter is that of the woman in Room 237 experienced by both Danny and Jack.
The Shining has become a classic horror film and has been parodied many times since it’s release including The Simpsons – Tree House of Horror V episode, Family Guy, and 30 Seconds to Mars video for ‘The Kill’ and contains one of the most quoted lines in film ‘Here’s Johnny!’ which was actually improvised by Nicholson at the time and almost didn’t make it in to the film.