Filmsite Movie Review
The Shining (1980)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The new caretakers are introduced to the friendly, black, Head Chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). A woman ushers in Danny, who, she reports, was thoughtlessly lost and separated from his family: "I found him outside looking for you." Hallorann takes Wendy and Danny for a tour of the giant, brightly-gleaming kitchen [in the only instance when the three 'good' characters are together by themselves]. In the cavernous space, Wendy makes a significant prophetic joke about the maze-like structure of the hotel: "This whole place is such an enormous maze I feel like I'll have to leave a trail of bread crumbs every time I come in." Hallorann assures them: "Well, one thing for sure, you won't have to worry about food, because you folks can eat up here a whole year and never have the same menu twice."

In the walk-in freezer chamber, he shows off the great storeroom of food wealth, TV-commercially advertised products and an abundance of typically American meats: "You've got fifteen rib roasts, thirty ten-pound bags of hamburger, we got twelve turkeys, about forty chickens, fifty sirloin steaks, two-dozen of pork roasts, and twenty legs of lamb." In two instances, Hallorann calls Danny by his family nickname: "You like lamb, Doc?" And when Danny explains his favorite foods are French fries and ketchup, Hallorann chuckles: "Well, I think we can manage that too, Doc." (Hallorann hints that he shares the same psychic powers as Danny by knowing his nickname). Wendy asks how he knows the nickname, adding: "We call him Doc sometimes, you know, like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons." Hallorann evades giving an answer: "Well, I guess I probably heard you call him that."

In the storeroom, Hallorann again tabulates the vast quantity of dry goods and canned goods:

We've got canned fruits and vegetables, canned fish and meats, hot and cold syrups, Post Toasties, Corn Flakes, Sugar Puffs, Rice Krispies, Oatmeal...and Cream of Wheat. You got a dozen jugs of black molasses, we got sixty boxes of dried milk, thirty 12-lb bags of sugar...Now we got dried peaches, dried apricots, dried raisins and dried prunes.

When his voice fades but his lips still move, Hallorann communicates clairvoyantly and telepathically with Danny - they have their first "shining" experience of psychic kinship. [Behind Hallorann on the shelf sits a large can of CALUMET Baking Powder with its Indian chief head trademark logo - a subliminal link to the doomed Indian heritage.] He turns to Danny and telepathically whispers a wish-fulfilling promise:

How'd you like some ice cream, Doc?

Outside the storeroom, as Wendy departs with Jack and Ullman, Danny is offered ice cream by Hallorann: "Would you like ice cream, Doc?...I thought you did." During the remainder of their tour, the Torrances are warned that they will soon be the only ones there:

Ullman: By five o'clock tonight, you'll never know anybody was ever here.
Wendy: Just like a ghost ship, huh?

While Danny is being served chocolate ice cream by Hallorann, he learns that they both have psychic powers of clairvoyance and telepathy - a mysterious phenomenon of ESP that Hallorann's grandmother called "the Shining." Hallorann acquired the hypersensitive trait to experience things nobody else sees (and to see the future) from his ancestor from two generations earlier - and Danny as a representative of the next generation also possesses it. The young boy is advised about his self-protective power and warned to stay away from Room 237 where there could be powerful psychic imprints or "traces" left from past acts of violence in the long, unfortunate history of the hotel:

Hallorann: I can remember when I was a little boy. My grandmother and I could hold conversations entirely without ever opening our mouths. She called it "shining." And for a long time, I thought it was just the two of us that had the shine to us. Just like you probably thought you was the only one. But there are other folks, though mostly they don't know it, or don't believe it. How long have you been able to do it? (No response from a reluctant Danny) Why don't you want to talk about it?
Danny: I'm not supposed to.
Hallorann: Who said you ain't supposed to?
Danny: Tony.
Hallorann: Who's Tony?
Danny: Tony is a little boy that lives in my mouth.
Hallorann: Is Tony the one that tells you things?
Danny: Yes.
Hallorann: How does he tell you things?
Danny: It's like I go to sleep, and he shows me things. But when I wake up, I can't remember everything.
Hallorann: Does your Mom and Dad know about Tony?
Danny: Yes.
Hallorann: Do they know he tells you things?
Danny: No. Tony told me never to tell 'em.
Hallorann: Has Tony ever told you anything about this place? About the Overlook Hotel?
Danny: I don't know.
Hallorann: Now think real hard now. Think!
Danny: Maybe he showed me something.
Hallorann: Try to think of what it was.
Danny: Mr. Hallorann, are you scared of this place?
Hallorann: No. Scared - there's nothin' here. It's just that, you know, some places are like people. Some 'shine' and some don't. I guess you could say the Overlook Hotel here has somethin' almost like 'shining.'
Danny: Is there something bad here?
Hallorann: Well, you know, Doc, when something happens, you can leave a trace of itself behind. Say like, if someone burns toast. Well, maybe things that happen leave other kinds of traces behind. Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who 'shine' can see. Just like they can see things that haven't happened yet. Well, sometimes they can see things that happened a long time ago. I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years. And not all of 'em was good.
Danny: What about Room 237?
Hallorann: Room 237?
Danny: You're scared of Room 237, ain't ya?
Hallorann: No I ain't.
Danny: Mr. Hallorann. What is in Room 237?
Hallorann: Nothin'! There ain't nothin' in Room 237. But you ain't got no business goin' in there anyway. (forcefully) So stay out! You understand? Stay out!

A Month Later

A distant shot of the Overlook in the morning light, with the echoing sound of a coyote in the mountains. Wendy pushes a stainless steel breakfast cart from the kitchen and across the Colorado Lounge. In a lengthy Steadi-cam tracking shot, the first tricycle scene, a low-angle camera follows behind Danny as he pedals his low-riding, sturdy blue tricycle in a complete circuit around the ground floor of the hotel - through the kitchen corridor, front office and lobby entrance, and then back into the kitchen corridor. The sound of his wheels alternatingly hitting deep, soft carpet (CLUMP) and the bare, shiny wooden floors (WHOOSH) reflect back different sound textures. Although one anticipates that he will run into something around each corner, as in a typical horror film, there are no scary apparitions around any of the haunted corners of the corridors.

Wendy enters their bedroom and prepares to serve breakfast in bed to Jack - the lettering on his T-shirt is reversed. [The scene is shot in his mirror image to deliberately dislocate his appearance.] He is awakened and amazed to think that it is already eleven-thirty. He mutters that he should try to write after eating, but he has no viable ideas: "Lots of ideas, no good ones." Unintelligently, Wendy assumes that he only needs to get into the habit of writing regularly: "It's just a matter of settlin' back into the habit of writing every day."

After one month, both of them have become semi-adjusted, especially Jack who feels at home in the rambling space [his feelings of 'deja-vu' foreshadow the film's final sequence and how he 'had been here before']:

Wendy: It's really nice up here, isn't it?
Jack: I love it. I really do. I've never been this happy or comfortable anywhere.
Wendy: Yeah, it's amazing how fast you get used to such a big place. I tell ya, when we first came up here, I thought it was kind of scary.
Jack: I fell in love with it right away. When I came up here for my interview, it was as though I had been here before. I mean, we all have moments of 'deja-vu,' but this was ridiculous. It was almost as though I knew what was going to be around every corner.

Later, in the vast, empty space of the Colorado Lounge where Jack has set up his typewriter (a blank white page sits waiting for him), he appears to lack creativity, entirely entropic - bankrupt of ideas, mind, and spirit. Instead of pounding away to turn out pages of writing, he repeatedly, in frustration, kills time by vigorously throwing a tennis ball against a Native-American tapestry hanging on the hotel's wall causing an echo - foreshadowing metaphorically how he vigorously assaults doors with an axe in deadly pursuit of his family later in the film. [Note: this is another symbol of the white man's hostility toward the annihilated Native-American race. Is Jack metaphorically trying to disturb or awaken the ancestral ghosts of the past?].

Outside, Wendy teasingly chases her son into the Overlook Maze built of hedges on the grounds. Overshadowed by its high walls, they explore the convoluted passageways of the maze - and struggle to find their way around. While wandering through the lobby of the hotel at the same time, Jack ambles over to a table-top scale model of the Maze outside - very different from the map of the Maze displayed outside at the entrance to the actual Maze. As he leans over and peers downward on the miniature replica with a domineering gaze, an overhead God's eye-view of the Maze appears. An indication of his impending madness, his god-like power over life and death, or evidence that his spirit is in league with the Overlook, he seems to see his wife and son strolling in the hedges of the Maze. The camera tracks slowly into the mirror-image of the outdoor Maze, picking up two small figures and faint voices moving in the Maze - it is his wife and son in the very center of the Maze. The next camera shot is a normal, eye level view of the two walking in the Maze.


In the kitchen while opening a large can of fruit cocktail and preparing a meal, Wendy calmly listens to a chilling TV news broadcast about a criminal serving a life sentence in a 1968 shooting, and a continuing search in the mountains for a missing 24 year-old Aspen woman who was on a "hunting trip with her husband" - both stories foreshadow similar dislocations and murders. The search may have to be called off as weathermen predict that a snowstorm will move in the next day.

Another tracking shot closely follows behind Danny as he rides his bike around through the winding, labyrinthine corridors of the hotel, passing rooms on his left and right. He pauses, curiously, at forbidden Room 237 where he feels vibrations - of temptation. He contemplates entering, feeling both fear and courage. Danny twists the door knob, but the door is locked. He glimpses another ghostly view of the two blue-dressed sisters in the flower-decorated hallway (in a quick, insert cut). And then he pedals off.

Aspiring, but frustrated novelist Jack struggles to create in the Colorado Lounge. Like an automaton, he pounds away feverishly at his typewriter - each keystroke echoing in the vast hallway. When waif-like Wendy, his banal wife, comes up to him and wishes to chat and inquires how he is doing, he rips the paper from the typewriter. [A picture scrapbook - of the hotel's unsavory history? - sits next to him on the table. Does he reflexively yank out the sheet of paper to conceal it from her? And notice the deliberate discontinuity - the typewriter feeds a fresh sheet of paper into the roller! Is the Overlook itself providing paper for Jack's work?] The impending forecast of a snowstorm spells more closing in, claustrophobia, restriction, and barrenness, and Jack has already begun his descent into madness. His mood quickly degenerates. Blaming his writer's block on his wife, he forever ostracizes her from the Colorado Lounge when he is working:

Wendy: Get a lot written today?
Jack: Yes.
Wendy: Hey! Weather forecast said it's gonna snow tonight.
Jack: What do you want me to do about it?
Wendy: Aw, come on, hun. Don't be so grouchy.
Jack: I'm not being grouchy. I just want to finish my work.
Wendy: OK, I understand. I'll come back later on with a couple of sandwiches for ya, and maybe you'll let me read something then.
Jack: Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. (He hits his head with the palm of his hand, rips up his manuscript, and throws it onto the floor.) And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. Understand?
Wendy: Yeah.
Jack: Fine. I'm gonna make a new rule. Whenever I'm in here, and you hear me typing (he types keys to demonstrate), whether you don't hear me typing, whatever the f--k you hear me doing in here, when I'm in here, that means that I am working. That means don't come in. Now do you think you can handle that?
Wendy: Yeah.
Jack: Fine. Why don't you start right now and get the f--k out of here?
Wendy: OK.


During the blinding snowstorm, Wendy and Danny frolic outside. Jack feels the pressures of isolation - he slips more out of touch with reality and loses control. The camera tracks in on his disheveled, unkempt, unshaven face - his lobotomized eyes stare meaninglessly into space. A fire burns behind him. A leering, half-devilish, satanic grin slowly crosses his mouth.

[This trademark camera angle is known as the "Kubrick stare," with the head tilted slightly down, accompanied often by a look of menace. Later in the film, Jack lopes through the icy/snowy maze with the same manic grin before being frozen to death. It was a term coined by Kubrick's director of photography, Doug Milsome, and is also prominently found in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - in the Star Child image, A Clockwork Orange (1971) - in Alex's (Malcolm McDowell) opening stare, Full Metal Jacket (1987) - in Private Pyle's (Vincent D'Onofrio) nasty smile before committing murder and suicide, and Eyes Wide Shut (1999)].


Two days later, as the snowstorm worsens, Wendy finds that the telephones are inoperative. She transmits a CB radio message from the hotel's CB radio (KDK 12) to the U.S. Fire Service (KDK 1), confirming that the telephone lines, downed from the storm, have cut them off almost entirely from civilization: "Most winters, they stay that way until spring...It's one of the worst we've had for years."

On another of his exploratory bike rides as he comes around a corner in his inexorable progression in another lengthy Steadicam shot of 35 seconds duration, Danny is petrified when he confronts the two undead twin girls at the end of a hallway blocking his way. In unison, they beckon to him in metallic, other-worldly voices with an invitation: "Hello, Danny, Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny." For an instant, Danny is horrified to "see" another slide-show flash with horrific images of the carnage of past murders - the two mutilated girls lie in large pools of blood in a blood-splattered hallway, with an oversized axe lying on the floor in front of them. And then they add as they appear to get closer: "...for ever, and ever, and ever." He covers his eyes to shut out the deathly apparitions. As he slowly uncovers his eyes, it appears that they have vanished.

Danny sinks deeper into his alter ego - seeking out the refuge of his imaginary friend, Tony. He is reminded that the girls are not real:

Danny: Tony, I'm scared.
Tony: Remember what Mr. Hallorann said. It's just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn't real.


Marooned by the storm, Wendy and Danny watch the nostalgic, coming-of-age film Summer of '42 (1971) on television. [Note: Not uncoincidentally, Danny wears the number 42 in the film.] After Danny receives permission from his mother to go to his room to retrieve his fire engine - but expressly cautioned to not make a sound because his father only went to bed "a few hours ago," he tip-toes into his father's bedroom. There as he passes by his father's room, he finds his insomniac father awake, sitting at the edge of his bed and staring zombie-like into space. In a stuporous voice (and with a disorienting double image of him in a mirror reflection), Jack asks his meek son to join him. Incongruously, Jack holds and embraces his son and places him on his knee - it's their first father-son interaction in the film. Danny has a primal fear that his father will hurt his mother and him. During a halting, strained, distant conversation, Danny hyper-intuitively senses his father's murderous hatred. With curved eyebrows and a maniacal smile, Jack seems paranoid about Wendy, but assures Danny that he would "never do anything" to hurt him:

Jack: How's it goin' Doc?
Danny: OK.
Jack: Havin' a good time?
Danny: Yes Dad.
Jack: Good. I wantcha to have a good time.
Danny: I am, Dad. Dad?
Jack: Yes?
Danny: Do you feel bad?
Jack: No. Seem a bit tired.
Danny: Why don't you go to sleep?
Jack: I can't. I have too much to do.
Danny: Dad?
Jack: Yes.
Danny: Do you like this hotel?
Jack: Yes, I do. I love it. Don't you?
Danny: I guess so.
Jack: Yeah. I want you to like it here. I wish we could stay here forever, and ever, ever. [He echoes the words of the two ghost-girls from the previous scene.]
Danny: Dad?
Jack: What?
Danny: You would never hurt Mommie or me, would ya?
Jack: What do you mean? Did your mother ever say that to you? That I would hurt you?
Danny: No, Dad.
Jack: Are you sure?
Danny: Yes, Dad.
Jack: I love you, Danny. I love you more than anything else in the whole world. And I would never do anything to hurt ya, never. You know that, don't ya? Huh?
Danny: Yes, Dad.
Jack: Good.

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