What if an alien in the future stumbled upon The Shining? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
The Shining (1980)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Production Co: Warner Bros., Hawk Films, Peregrine
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
The Shining’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Shining, directed by visionary auteur Stan Lee Kubrick and starring visionary golfer Jack Nicklaus.
The film tells the story of a human male named Jack Torrance who moves into a hotel, or “large house,” because winter is coming and he needs somewhere to write that isn’t another goddamn Starbucks. To help him procrastinate, Jack brings his wife, Wendy, his son, Danny, and his son’s friend, Tony. Most Earth males considered themselves best friends with one of their appendages. Although usually not their finger.
A kindly old scatman reveals to Danny that they share the same mutant powers, namely their ability to process lactase. The scatman refers to their telepathy as “shining” because hey, that’s the name of the movie! He also tells Danny to stay out of Room 237, since he knows human children are all about doing what they’re told.
Next thing you know, Danny motors over to Room 237 and gets himself strangled like an idiot. Jack takes some time away from his busy schedule to check it out for himself, but all he finds is some horny old corpse. Talk about a dead end! He retires to the bar, where he downs some spirits while getting down with some spirits.
Wendy discovers Jack’s memoirs, which contain some alarming spelling and syntax errors. Jack begs her for more constructive criticism, but she pushes for a page one rewrite.
Now a child of a broken home, Danny turns to the underground world of street art. Meanwhile, Jack returns with an axe, apparently having forgotten his first name.
Jack chases Danny into the hedge maze that is right in front of the hotel for some reason, but Danny escapes by doing the moonwalk. Wendy grabs him and bolts, proving that sometimes cooler heads don’t prevail.
Finally, a photograph from decades earlier reveals a sinister twist: Jack used to have a different haircut.
The Shining is one of Earth’s most famous horror films, and yet it consciously inverts classic horror tropes like it don’t even care. In most horror films, the “monster” is shrouded in mystery until it jumps out and spooks ya, and nothing is seen from its perspective. But here, Jack Torrance is the character we know best, and he becomes the “monster” before our very eye sockets.
In its defiance of horror archetypes, the film shows its contempt for traditional media. Jack often speaks dismissively of film and television as if it is something absurd.
Take that, traditional media! Moreover, as Jack loses his mind, he talks more and more performatively, like a TV character. Eerily prescient, as television eventually gave Earth’s entire population brain damage.
The film hinges on perspective, which is kept deliberately ambiguous to make the “logic” of what is happening impossible to discern. The beginning is marked by an omniscient, ghostly perspective that dances across the water like some sort of Flamenco Jesus. These pioneering Steadicam shots of Danny burning plastic on his chopper suggest that someone is “watching him” — perhaps the evil forces within the hotel.
What follows is a battle between subjective and objective reality, and this is one battle that can’t be won with a neutron torpedo. Sometimes we see images through the eyes of a certain character. Like Danny, for instance. He’s a character. Other times, we see images in a purely objective way, aka regular style. When Lloyd appears behind the bar, we see him not from Jack’s point of view but as a simple reverse shot — as if he’s ACTUALLY there. Are we to believe Danny’s visions are merely visions but the things happening to Jack are really happening? What about Wendy and that bear guy? They’ve got “will they or won’t they” written all over them. Occasionally, though, the lines are hazier.
Jack looks at a miniature model of the maze and sees Wendy and Danny running around inside, which would be impossible. I mean, they’re short, but not that short. Later, one of Jack’s apparition buddies lets Jack out of the locked pantry, despite his lack of a key or any corporeal form. So now it’s not just perspective being manipulated, but physical reality? Yikes! I’m sleeping with my head under the covers tonight!
The supernatural element at the hotel is purposefully vague, but some signs point to the involvement of Earth’s Devil, who by all accounts resided in Georgia. Jack invokes the Faust legend, immediately prompting Lloyd to appear with that trademark smirk on his face. Jack freaks out when Wendy says they should leave, citing the fact that he “signed a contract” with the hotel staff — similar to the contract Faust signed with the Devil’s hotel staff. Jack asks “I’m the kind of man who likes to know who’s buying his drinks” but Lloyd says “that doesn’t concern you”. Is it the devil? The hotel? Director Stanny Cubes? Perhaps some questions are better left unanswered?
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid.