A horror film usually consists of nothing more than groups of teenagers being killed off with the exception of one survivor to populate a sequel. That’s probably why horror can’t really be taken seriously as a movie genre. It’s a genre with filled with disturbing images and no hope of any kind. The Shining does things a little differently, though. At the end a family loses a father, but we also learn of the evidence of afterlife in their world. Any story that ends in afterlife is an optimistic one. A horror film with a happy ending. That’s what makes The Shining one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It’s one of the best for the same reason Let the Right One In, The Ring, Psycho, and Alien are the bests. They have redeeming value.
One aspect of the movie that really fascinates me is how much Stanley Kubrick foreshadows from the very beginning. There are clues plattered everywhere. Jack’s employer warns that a former caretaker murdered his wife and two daughters, and committed suicide, but Jack reassures him: “You can rest assured, Mr. Ullman, that’s not gonna happen with me.” That’s hilarious. You laugh the first time because you suspect he’s going to kill everyone. It’s Jack Nicholson, why wouldn’t he? And the second time you watch the movie, it’s even more hysterical because you know it.
Another foreshadow would be Danny’s visions. The things Toby tells him. The shining. Toby tells us exactly what’s going to happen. We see an elevator shaft open with a wave of blood proceeding. These are all hints as of what’s going to happen. (One note on Danny’s “shining,” it’s not important to the plot whatsoever. It’s only there for suspense).
Even casting Jack Nicholson, who has this chaotic presence, and was previously just in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was such a predictable personality to go insane. He’s not an everyday man. Jack Nicholson always plays the crazy.
Stanley Kubrick probably did all of this intentionally. From the very beginning you suspect nothing else to happen more than an absolute bloodbath. And to an extent, it is an absolute bloodbath; but Wendy and Danny survive. They live. They win. That’s the one thing that you never expect. All the odds are against them. When every arrow points to nothing but obliteration, in the end, there’s nothing but hope.