Stanley Kubrick’s films are so distinct and exceptional that he practically legitimizes whichever genre he decides to work in. Before 2001: A Space Odyssey, science fiction films were mostly dispensable pulp featuring monsters in rubber suits. Like earlier horror masterpieces The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and Psycho, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining elevates the horror genre into rarefied air. In this piece, we’ll look at how Kubrick starts with a mundane story of a family spending a winter alone in a hotel and uses all of his skills as a filmmaker to craft one of the scariest films ever.
The Shining sets forth a seemingly basic story in terms of its plot and characters, but Kubrick is able to manipulate the language of film to slowly fill the audience with an overwhelming sense of dread. Camera movements and shots, curious editing, and the pacing of the story all slowly draw out the terror, ultimately leaving the viewer petrified. By the climax of the film, we’re jumping at the supernatural, the too-human, and the utter mystery of what we’re seeing on the screen. In the end, it’s hard to say what scared us so – we’re simply certain that we’re terrified. Now let’s figure out why . . .