The Shining is probably my favorite horror movie of all time, and it’s easily in my top ten movies in general.
I believe Stephen King’s horror is at its peak when it is most relatable, and so many bits of The Shining hit way too close to home for me.
Places of History and Power
Things need a history to have power when it comes to the imagination. The Overlook Hotel is given a rich lore, and that is the soil that all stories, and especially horror, need to grow. The hotel has housed Presidents and royalty, the ice and the famous, the great and the terrible. It is built on an Indian graveyard, and was constructed in part with violence.
It is a testament to the corruption that is hidden away in deference to power and wealth. The Overlook, beyond its scenic (and secluded) location, has history, both in grandeur and guest list. It also has also explicit, darker moments to speak of.
I am a huge fan of terrible weather. It’s a weird thing to say, but I love hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and the like. There is much beauty to be had in nature, and there is a majesty to large-scale weather. Weather has the ability us feel small and vulnerable- it is something that is still far beyond our ability to control. The humbling experience of staring into the face of something so far beyond us is something I don’t think we get enough of these days.
On the other side, severe weather’s power can be catastrophic. It can end lives, it can isolate, and it can make a mockery of the modern conveniences we take for granted. It is perhaps the least malevolent force that unites us as a community, so even as we endure it, it doesn’t trigger the aggression that an attack would. The response of a community in the face of severe weather can renew your faith in humanity.
I’ve never been isolated for five months on the side of a mountain. I have been isolated in the boonies of central Texas, and that’s damn sure bad enough. To this day, I require connection to the living world on a near-constant basis or I start to go stir-crazy.
I’ve always had roommates or a partner / spouse. I have a pack of dogs in part to help offset the crazy. I think that’s part of my love of live sports- it’s something that ties us all together in real time. It can be almost oppressive when the wife is on a trip.
The Danger of Self
It is my firm conviction that we never, ever truly know ourselves. We can only ever know ourselves relative to our circumstances. We like to think we know who we are… How we would act when the shit well and truly hits the fan. There is so much fiction out there right now exploring those idea- The Walking Dead immediately comes to mind.
The Shining hits so many of my buttons- isolation, cabin fever, extreme weather (but without a community to respond)… Obviously, there is also the supernatural element, and you could say, "Well, that’s not real, so yea." The thing is, though, we make it real. So often, we let mundane, explainable phenomena build a level of control over us.
Toxic Masculinity / Domestic Abuse
We know from the start that Jack is capable of violence, even towards his loved ones. We can also see that he doesn’t relate to Wendy as an equal, and is fine using emotional abuse as a means of control. He takes pleasure belittling her and trivializing her, and that’s well before the supernatural aspect kicks in.
Watching the movie as an adult, in an adult relationship, it’s so much more terrifying as a metaphor for a traditional abusive relationship. It constantly gives me pause, and makes me wonder what kind of evil I could get up to given a sufficient level of stress.
The Shining also puts a sad and terrifying face on the effects that abuse can have on both a spouse and a child. Danny knows. Kids know when parents have well and truly lost their shit, even if they’re trying to put a brave face on things. I can tell you from first-hand experience the damage a parent can inflict when they are both abusive, and then manipulative enough make you feel bad for having been abused. Wendy is rendered barely coherent through a mix of verbal and emotional abuse / manipulation.
The movie even ties in the greatest bogey man of my actual life- alcoholism / substance abuse. I have never given in, myself, because I’ve seen what it’s done to others of my bloodline, and because I just don’t have the faith that I could maintain control.
The movie depicts Jack Torrance as a recovering alcoholic. I think the movie veers into a truth that many would like to avoid. Jack finds himself ‘getting drunk’ when there is literally no alcohol on premises. I certainly believe that substances can cause us to act differently than we normally would- I just also happen to believe that those substances simply help to pull down the barriers that we’ve so carefully constructed in our heads in order to maintain civilized society.
The entirety of The Shining terrifies me. The setting- isolation, extreme weather, the history of the place. The cabin fever those factors can produce. Most of all, the idea that, given
the right a very wrong set of circumstances , the possibility of becoming a Jack Torrance. OK. Time for me to watch some cartoons and cuddle up with a German Shepherd.