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Genre Criticism of Stanley Kubricks The Shining

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Genre Criticism of Stanley Kubricks The Shining

The true measure of success for any film lies in its ability to establish a relationship with its audience. Perhaps more than in any other genre, the horror film must be aware of this relationship and manage it carefully. After all, the purpose of a horror film is not necessarily to invoke thought, but rather to evoke an emotional reaction from its audience. Horror films of all types have used frightening images, disturbing characters, and thrilling sequences to inspire fear. Within the genre, 'tried and true' methods have become staples in evoking this response from the viewer. From serial killers 'around the corner' to monsters under the bed, the horror genre has employed these methods to guarantee a scare from its audience. The result is often a predictable film that only touches the surface of this relationship. Every once in a while, however, a film comes along that explores the possibilities and experiments with the depth of this relationship. Such films are presented in ways to attach themselves inside of the human psyche and remain there long after the film is over.

Stanley Kubrick?s The Shining is one of these films. A true auteur, Kubrick steps into the horror genre and explores the potential of the power of a horror film. Through the use of imagery and sound, Kubrick creates a film that is beautiful, terrifying, and thought provoking. With its use of shot selection, motion, lighting and pace, The Shining defies the conventions of the horror genre to create a unique and captivating film experience.

At its core, The Shining is a narrative about a haunted house. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is a man who takes on a job as an off-season caretaker at a huge, isolated resort with a haunting past and brings his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, along to spend a winter alone at the Overlook Hotel. As a struggling writer, he sees the job as an opportunity to work on his writing in a peaceful, serene setting. The supernatural powers of the house and the effects of isolation begin to wield their power over Jack and turn him into a crazed murderous lunatic. His descent into madness ultimately leads him in an attempt to kill his wife and son.

The title of the film is derived from Danny?s ability to see into the future and communicate with the supernatural. This ?shining? serves as a conduit through...

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...ycle through the hallways of the hotel. The camera ?rides? right behind Danny, showing us everything that he sees on his tour. Again, the moving camera is used to establish a unique perspective. We get the feeling that Danny is leading us into another frightening encounter with the hotel?s resident spirits. However, as we follow him on this ride, nothing happens. Every corner he turns serves as an opportunity for a shocking image or a quick scare, but Kubrick never gives us the expected payoff. In fact, Danny completes a full circle and ends up right where he began, safe and sound. This is one of many examples in which the film explores its relationship with the audience and uses its deliberate pace to maximize its potential.

Overall, Stanley Kubrick?s The Shining is both beautiful and terrorizing. In one-way or another, Kubrick manages to defy all of the conventions of the horror genre to deliver a unique and chilling film experience. Through the brilliant use of his camera and the calculated accumulation of suspense, he creates a film that is very aware of its relationship to its audience and revels in its opportunity to explore the potential of that relationship.
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