The Shining — Quietly Going Insane Together

The Shining — Quietly Going Insane Together


Hi. I’m Michael. This is Lessons from the Screenplay. No film frightens me like The Shining. Other movies may have moments that make me
jump more, or keep me in more suspense about the characters’ survival, but The Shining
disturbs me. Hypnotizes me. Makes me look over my shoulder, suddenly feeling
like there’s someone—or something in the room with me. Today, I want to look at how co-writers Stanley
Kubrick and Diane Johnson approached writing the film. What they did to set it apart from the conventional
horror films of the time, and figure out what, exactly, is so creepy about The Shining. I should begin by saying I wasn’t able to
read the shooting script of The Shining. The only version available is post-production
screenplay, essentially a transcript of the film. After much Googling and tweeting at Lee Unkrich,
director of Toy Story 3 and caretaker of the website TheOverlookHotel.com, it was confirmed
that the only shooting scripts available are far from where I live. But from my research I’ve learned that the
screenplay was being written during pre-production. Co-writer Diane Johnson said she even toured
the sets to figure out the stagings of scenes for the script. In fact, re-writes happened all the way through
filming. “I quit using my script.” “I just take the ones they type up each day.” This may partly be why it’s so hard to find
an official shooting script, but Kubrick also wasn’t a fan of publishing the screenplays
for his films, stating “A screenplay isn’t meant to be read, it’s to be realized on film.” Regardless, in the case of The Shining, the
words of the script and the design of the film were created together. And luckily there is a lot of documentation
of the writing process. So what was the writing process? According to Johnson, “Stanley’s approach was to think in terms of time segments in relation to the totality of the film.” There ended up being ten segments, each marked
with a title card. In the beginning of the film, the titles refer to the
subjects of each section. But as the film moves on, the time intervals
increase, from a month later, to days of the week, to specific times on the final day at
the Overlook Hotel. The increasing passage of time helps create
momentum and suspense for the audience. We know we’re getting closer to whatever
inevitable horror awaits, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. In an effort to understand why The Shining
affects me in a deep, psychological way, I was on the look-out for differences from other
horror films. One thing that stood out to me was its set-up. It directly indicates the dangers to come
early-on. Rather than giving the audience reasons to
doubt that Jack would ever hurt his family, we’re immediately told that he’s an alcoholic
who has injured Danny before. “My husband just used too much strength
and he injured Danny’s arm.” We’re even told in one of the first scenes
that a previous caretaker went crazy and murdered his family with an axe, the very thing that
Jack will try to do. “Well, you can rest assured, Mr. Ullman,
that’s not going to happen with me.” The film gives us every reason to suspect
and dislike Jack. But what I always find most surprising, is
how early the supernatural elements are revealed and explained. “You know, some places are like people.” “Some shine, and some don’t.” All of this removes a lot of the potential
mystery of the story, because the audience is essentially told what’s going to happen. But the point is that the frightening part
of the story isn’t what is going to happen, it’s how it’s going to happen. From the beginning Kubrick didn’t want to
make a conventional horror film, instead aiming to hold themselves to a higher standard. Johnson said, “It must be plausible, use
no cheap tricks, have no holes in the plot, no failures of motivation . . . it must be
completely scary.” Which brings us to the thing that disturbs
me most about The Shining. It’s creepy. What is the difference between creepiness
and other kinds of fear? In a study published in 2013 by Francis T.
McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnkey, they state: “Creepiness is anxiety aroused by the ambiguity
of whether there is something to fear or not and/or by the ambiguity of the precise nature
of the threat.” An example of this is a popular theory which
argues that masks are disturbing for the same reasons. When someone is wearing a mask, you’re unable
to discern if the person underneath is a threat to you. Their intentions are ambiguous and unknowable. I think this is why I find the two little
girls so frightening. When they appear, they’re at a distance that
makes it difficult to read their faces. “Hello, Danny.” And even when you can they’re completely expressionless. Their presence indicates they want something
from you, but they are perfectly still and their faces betray nothing. That same study on creepiness also offers
the following example: If you’re walking down a dark city street
and you hear something move in an alley to your right, your brain will first respond
as if it is someone or something that intends to do you harm. Even if it ends up being a gust of wind knocking
over a bottle, evolutionarily we’re programmed to assume danger in ambiguous situations. “Hello?” The filmmaking in The Shining activates these
same primal reactions in a few ways. The music is unsettling and unpredictable. At times startling when nothing has happened. And other times unresponsive despite visual
changes. It signals to the audience to constantly be
on guard. It’s the noise we hear down the alley that
makes us assume danger is present. But visually, the hotel is inviting. It’s brightly-lit with seemingly natural light
— not at all a stereotypical horror environment. This adds to the unease. The Overlook hides the horror that resides
beneath it’s exterior. Like it’s wearing a mask. Perhaps my favorite example of creepiness
is when Danny is playing with his toys. After a few moments a ball rolls up to him. And when he looks up to see where it came
from, he sees only an empty hallway. In and of itself a ball being rolled is not
scary, but once again the ambiguity is unsettling. Who rolled it? What do they want? “Mom?” As Danny walks down the hallway he finds the
door to room two-three-seven cracked open, the room he was warned to stay out of. “Stay out, you understand?” “Stay out.” But instead of being dark and foreboding,
it’s luminous and almost welcoming. The clash of these two things — implied
danger yet no obvious threat — creates unease. It’s not clear how one should react. The flip side of this is why The Shining actually
gets less scary for me toward the end. Or rather, it becomes a different kind of
scary. The more the film reveals the boundaries and
intentions of the Overlook Hotel and the spirits who reside there, the less vague the threat. “I fear you will have to deal with this
matter in the harshest possible way, Mr. Torrance.” Once Jack is committed to killing his family,
the proper reaction is clear. “Run and hide!” “Run!” By the end, it’s simply a crazed man with
an axe chasing his family. “Danny!” More suspenseful than creepy. “Danny!” The Shining is a great example of how film
can access and manipulate the psyche of an audience. Kubrick and co-writer Diane Johnson show that
the most powerful kind fear doesn’t come from a monster on the screen, but from within our
own imaginations. Kubrick demonstrates how great filmmaking
can activate our primal fears, while telling a deceptively simple story. After all, as Kubrick described it, ”It’s just the story of one man’s family quietly going insane together. Hey guys! I hope you enjoyed the video. The Shining really does creep me out and I’ve
had trouble sleeping the past couple weeks because I keep picturing the twins standing
at the foot of my bed, watching me. It’s not fun. Thanks to my friend Ryan McDuffie, who
when I asked, “do you have any resources about Kubrick?” gave me all of this. There are many things. There is a great Vsauce video about what makes
things creepy that was a very big resource for me, so a link to that is also in the description. And finally, a hundred thousand subscribers! That’s insane! That’s the population of my home town times
three, at least. So that’s crazy. So thank you to everyone who subscribes, thank
you to everyone who supports me on Patreon. And most of all, thank you for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Shining — Quietly Going Insane Together”

  • In the bank rolling scene when Danny gets up the floor changes slightly. It’s design goes backwards as to say that something is wrong or out of place but the viewer doesn’t know what.

  • There is a difference between being scared and being startled. The shining is scary. Modern horror like, The Conjuring films, are startling due to the jump scares.

  • it also affected me in psychological way.. wasted my fucking time in this nonsense movie right after watching this theatrical video.. now in need of a psychiatrist..

  • Ghosts and the supernatural cant hold a candle to truest horrors which are the most earthly and human. Such as somebody descending into insanity or the act of cannibalism as mentioned in the beginning of the film during the family car ride.

  • It get gradually more creepy and disturbing as the plot develops and these segments are brilliant and original. But at the end it's just another ax murderer movie. The acting is great, but I'm sorry I find the last segment disappointing. If I want an ax murder I don't need Kubrick.

  • i never really watched your videos all the way to then end, so when i saw your face i was surprised. based on your voice, i imagined you to be a slightly chubby white guy with glasses. but now that i know how you look like, your videos have become more intimate and personal feeling 🙂

  • All Work And No Play Makes Jack a dullboy

    That was the most unsettling part of the movie for me. It's madness on paper that scared me the most.

  • i can agree 100 percent NO MOVIE ever gave me this feeling i had from shining u really scared what happens next. its a master piece… the camerea handling and the music and the whole atmosphere is just scary!! perfect! is there any movie close to the shinging? i never found one?!? why cant they make movies like this again …

  • For me the thing that was so scary about the shining was the cinematography – when somebody was walking down a corridor, you always see it from their perspective, and every corner they turn seems like something there is going to be hiding there

  • R48 Productions says:

    The guy giving the tour of the hotel said that the hotel was built on an Indian reservation. There’s hints of an Indian head on food cans. American flags and the blood in some scenes might be a sign to the Indians. Danny is also wearing an Apollo shirt and there’s a lot red, white, and blue between the family.

  • Woodsim Airsoft says:

    This is all my opinion, I really don’t like this movie. Shelley Duvall is very annoying in it , asking the same questions to Jack every five minutes. Like no wonder he is going insane, he has a housewife who won’t shut the fuck up about how the weather is outside. There is literally no suspense, and don’t even say “Oh the music is suspenseful.” The music is placed at the most random points in the movie. It should honestly not be rated as “horror” either. I personally do not understand how so many can rate this as one of the greatest horror films of all time. Also feel like the only reason it’s labeled that is because it’s from 1980. Just my opinion, think what you want, just waiting for some irrational 63 year old to comment that I am a fucking idiot.

  • I find it sad that the film has so much diffrences with the book by stephen King, in the book the hotel burns down and there are animals in the maze. And the story with Jacks alcohol addiction is told way better. And in the book it's room 217 not 237

  • “Brought u breakfast in bed, eggs sunny side up just like you like em.”
    “-mmm nice. What time is it?”
    “- You slept in its 11:30. Been staying up too late.
    -“Heh heh, don’t I know it. I should probably try and get some writing done…”

  • My family lives in the town where the Stanley hotel is (the real overlook) at that hotel, the piano plays itself, the paintings look into your soul, and some people talk to ghosts. We go over there all the time just to see what will happen to us that day. My aunt swears she met the owner (who is dead) and I’ve walked past mirrors that don’t show my reflection.

  • This video was so well made! The script being spoken, the music, the editing, the quotes from different people involved in making the Shining, all help in making this video super entertaining and informative!! Good job!!

  • theunpossiblefile says:

    “Don’t look back, something (not some1) might be gaining on you.” I occasionally look back. “Is it me or is it getting crazier out there?” No, it’s actually getting slightly better. Considering how bad things were in Gotham NYC after 2011 across race & class it’d be almost impossible to get any worse.

  • Whenever I tell people that the shining is the scariest film I’ve ever seen, they laugh and say it just isn’t scary, so I’m glad to know it psychologically affected other people too 😂

  • I totally agree. The Shining is creepy as shit. The only thing I disagree about is the two girls. Yes, they're CREEPY, but I could kick the shit out of any eight year old girl that I've ever met.

  • The isolation, Jack Nicholson a huge part and the Shelly Duval's terror was real and that's a huge part too. The fact he's talking to spirits and slowly losing his mind. The hotel is working against the mother and son and trying to posses Jack's soul. The music is fantastic and paces the mood much especially at the ending credits and that song. Alien and even Hellraiser those soundtracks are so great.

  • Mirka Hordziejewicz says:

    Great analysis but how come you never mentioned Stephen King? The movie is based on his novel and at least 50% of what you describing (creepiness, early introduction of Jack's violent character etc) is due to King's ingenious writing…

  • So my university is where the Kubrick archive is held and we have to use the shooting scripts of "A Clockwork Orange" and others for our work. I could look at the shooting script for you if you would like and send you images?

  • cmon guys – it´s way more than that. just look to the right side… proper analysis imo comes from rob ager. so basically we´re talking very dark, serious and real human problems here. this and the perfect techniques and methods and kubrick´s relentless strive for perfection made this movie what it is – it´s a fucking masterpiece, a deep glimpse into the dark abyss of men risen by violence.

  • Samuel Sepulveda says:

    The shining is the only film I’ve ever been scared enough to want to look away. The scene with the father just staring at his wife and boy when she realizes he’s going insane. And whne the boy is running through the maze. I loved it. Just looking for a movie to scare me like that.

  • i think you use ambiguity wrong several times. sometimes its not ambiguity its just the unknown. the unknown is scsry cause we leave it to our brains to fill in the terrifying possibilities. like the hallway scene its not ambiguous its unknown

  • Are you able to say what the paper was on the fear of mask and ambiguity of facial expressions that make us scared please? I'm doing a dissertation on anxiety and could use the help x

  • Nobody but Jack Nicholson would have been able to pull off the character of Mr."Jack" Torrance in this movie that I've watched numerous times over the years since 1980. It never gets old. An absolute amazing actor. A natural.

  • I remember seeing the movie in theaters when it came out. When they killed Scatman I was so enraged I jumped up and shouted, " WTF!!! He doesn't die!!!" They ruined the book! Lol Not only was I pissed they killed a character that saved the mother and child, but they killed Scatman!! Although this integral part of the ending was changed, and therefore changed the futures of Wendy and Danny, I still love this movie! It is second on my list of great and my personal favorite films! Thank you for such a great insight to a movie that still makes me question 40 years later!

  • Women "in general" DO NOT GET PAID LESS THAN MEN.

    In fact, women make more when they have comparable education and experience.. fuck off liberals

    Fuck this liberal agenda

  • this movie was made so much more scary becuase of the soundtrack. One of the most outstanding pieces i've ever heard in film.

  • Very well -explained and broken down. I like your thought process and the simple manner in which the video is presented to the viewer. Keep going!

  • I've always been thinking how it would have been so much more comforting for the torrances if they had a pet or two with them.
    Like a cat or a dog or something.

  • Great analysis but you went after an unconnected external reference when you had the one suggested by Kubrick himself. The Uncanny (Das Unheimlich), an essay by Freud. The text is on the psychology of strangeness felt in some fictional work (not necessarily fantastic one) and also in events that hold some repressed meaning to the individual. That uncanny feeling is present when you feel uncomfortable with a familiar situation but you can't pinpoint exactly what made you feel that way. Freud thought the uncanny being specially important in fiction. Kubrick's The Shining has many (repetitions,mirrors, premonitions, dualities abound…) references to this work and Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment", both works were used in the pre-production of the film.

  • Daniel Claggett says:

    The Overlook comes off as cold in the film. Like I never get the feeling that hotel is warm even with the oven going and a fire in the fire place.

  • "Why does The Shining affect me in a deep, psychological way?" Well maybe because my sister and her best friend made me watch it many times when I was like 5-6 years old and made me do the voice saying, "Tommy! Tommy!" and "Redrum" while moving my finger up and down.
    Edit: Ooops I meant Tony haha, shows how much I remember…

  • civilwarfare101 says:

    A great example of how an adaptation is better than the source. Basically what Kubrick did was take the long, draggy and boring parts and the weird supernatural elemetents out and trimmed it with something more subdued.

  • ok. I haven't watched the whole video, but from what other videos i've seen from you, you are really good with your edits. And these are short videos. The first cut from the title screen, however… wow. You're really good at representing the aura of your material.

  • That aerial shot of the maze….always gives me the creeps. I think the script combined with the cinematography…that sense of dislocation and space. There's so much space in certain shots that it just creeps me out. The way Kubrick used leading lines with the twins in the hallway, like…you are going that way.

  • Jason Gustetic says:

    Without a doubt the best scary movie ever. It was like a soap opera from he'll. This movie actually makes you think. Unlike the cheap slasher garbage. Example. The direction Friday the 13th went. It's really sad that more movies like this are not made. And no special effects. And it's very scary. Wow what a concept!!!

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