Love it or hate it, “The Shining” is one of the most famous horror films of all time. Based on the story by Stephen King and directed by industry giant Stanley Kubrick, “The Shining” has been both lauded and heavily criticized since it was released in 1980. Considering the film’s affecting environment, early adoption of cutting edge film technology, and striking cinematography, the praise is well-deserved, but when you factor in the stilted characters, racist tropes, and Shelly Duvall’s bad experiences working with Kubrick, the criticism rings true.
The film tells the story of the Torrence family, who move into the grand Overlook Hotel after father Jack Torrence is hired as the off-season caretaker. While things are finally starting to look up for the Torrences, the family we meet in the beginning of the film is already in crisis. Jack’s wife Wendy and their son Danny have been physically and mentally abused by Jack, who is an alcoholic. Of course, things take a turn for the worse as the solitude, and ghostly spirits, in the hotel itself drive Jack mad. Danny and Wendy’s only saving grace is Danny’s magical powers, which include premonitions and telepathy. Those magic powers connect Danny to the Hotel’s chef Dick Hallorann, who embodies the racist archetype of the “magical negro” in Kubrick’s and King’s story. Hallorann is portrayed as a tour guide for and a savior of the Torrence family, a minimized role that only shows Hallorann in their service. He’s also the first and only character killed on screen, which recalls another racist horror trope.
The well-earned criticism doesn’t end there, Shelly Duvall, the actress who played Wendy, has described the overwhelming emotional intensity Kubrick required on set, as well as the hundreds of takes he demanded. Essentially, it seems like an arduous process that targeted Duvall more than the rest of the cast. “The Shining” might be an important horror movie, but parts of it feel as old and neglected as the halls of the Overlook Hotel. (Kaylee Dugan)