The Shining the 1980 adaptation of a novel by Stephen King starring Jack Nicholson and directed by Stanley Kubrick. This classic horror film tells the story of Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy and their young son Danny after they move into a luxury resort hotel for the winter. Although the snow would make it ideal as a winter resort skiing destination, the means of getting to the hotel is routinely obstructed by too much snowfall. Therefore, Jack Torrance is hired to be the caretaker through the winter. This means that he is cut off from society and the family is isolated from the outside world as Jack’s mind slowly deteriorates and he and his son both have moments where they can see and interact with ghosts of former residents of the hotel. This ability to see ghosts is referred to as “The Shine” by an old man who works in the hotel and befriends Danny.
Not long after the last employee leaves, Jack—who is a struggling novelist who took the job in the first place to find the isolation and time necessary to complete his book—begins to exhibit signs of losing his mind. A former alcoholic who has committed to staying sober, his first encounter with a ghost happens to be one of the hotel’s former bartenders. Shortly after this, he meets the second ghost who is was the former caretaker. This man also happens to have murdered his two daughters. The ghosts of these two girsl are just a pair of ghosts that Danny has moments of Shining with. He also claims to have been attacked by an old woman in one of the room. When Jack goes to investigate, he finds not an old woman, but a young woman naked in the bathtub. When she rises and they embrace, during the kiss, Jack sees her true self in the mirror in the form of her rotting corpse. The rest of the film tells the story of Jack’s degeneration into utter madness and how Wendy and Danny escape.
I chose this film because it is a classic and it is an example of how the movie is better than the book. The film is driven by the relationship between Jack and his wife Wendy. Jack’s descent into madness is the result of his anger at being forced by Wendy into being a model father when what he really wants to do is be a writer. He cannot be both because, as the ghost of the caretaker tells him, Jack has ALWAYS been the caretaker. Jack is forced to become caretaker of the hotel in order to write. Jack is forced to become caretaker of the family which takes away his time and focus to write. The Shining is therefore really less a ghost story than a domestic drama about how marriage and having kids serves to destroy the soul of an artist.
Jack is constantly at odds with Wendy emotionally and this finally is realized in physical form when he is coming after her up the stairs like a wild animal while Wendy can defend herself with a baseball bat. It is her purely lucky strike against Jack’s head that saves her from being attacked and it is her attempt to literally imprison her husband in a frozen pantry—the very image of domesticity—that finally sends Jack over the edge and makes him give up all pretensr of being caretaker of both family and hotel. He gives into the commands of the ghosts—or is he merely giving into the voices inside his own head—and comes after both Danny and Wendy with a vengeance. Eventually, Danny leads Jack into the giant maze outdoors where his madness results in utter confusion about where to go or which way to turn and he freezes to death.
The Shining is both a very disturbing horror story and also a very fascinating family drama about what drives husbands and wives apart and causes families to break down.