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The Shining (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on March 16, 2013

I want to talk just about the scene pictured above.  I’ve seen the movie at least 10 times, probably way more than that.  This scene still gives me the heebie-jeebies.  What gives it such power?  What makes it so creepy?

First of all, symmetry.  It’s unnatural.  But what makes symmetry visually unnerving is when it’s a little off.  Your brain is trying to balance everything.  The window frame to the right, the hallway that turns left in the background.  The fact that the little girls look almost exactly alike, but not quite.  We know from prior conversation that they’re not twins, they’re two years apart.  But they’re dressed identically, same hairstyle with the same pin, almost the same height.  It’s like they’re put up for display.  What occasion are they dressed for?  Do they always do this?  It’s just weird.

And let’s talk some more about these girls.  They say — without opening their mouths, also creepy — the exact same words, with the same droning, lifeless intonation.  It robs them of any individuality.  They are a sinister, ghostly unit.  The way the light hits their faces makes their eyes look sunken and dead.  The posture is simultaneously rigid and slouchy, with the high-waisted belts giving their bodies an odd proportion.  And besides, there’s just something kinda scary about little girls.  The Japanese know this.

There’s also Danny himself, a character who dread seems to follow around, it hangs over him like a raincloud.  We never see him interacting with other children, he plays by himself.  He needs friends.  And so the scene takes on some extra weight when here he is presented with two other children, and they’re even inviting him to play… but it’s just to scare the shit out of him.  That’s creepy and sad.

The composition is claustrophobic.  We see the girls at the same moment Danny sees them, at the end of a long, narrow corridor.  As we switch between the girls and the awful vision of their slaughtered corpses (horrifyingly convincing without resorting to excessive gore), axial cuts bring us closer and closer to them, sucking us in… no escape.  And look at that crazy, busy wallpaper.  And the sickly pastel colors.

The scene also comes as a shock, even after so many viewings.  I forget that there are two other scenes with Danny on his cycle preceding it, so each time I get tensed up.  But I always think there’s a lot more buildup to it, a lot more of Danny riding around.  The whole scene is in and out in less than 90 seconds.  Around one corner and BAM.  And that brilliant Wendy Carlos score knocks you for a loop, too.  It’s a stunner of a scene, in a film with a lot of stunning scenes.

I considered giving this movie a solid 100.  I couldn’t think of anything I didn’t like about it.  But there is one little thing.  That bit with the skeletons is kinda silly.  Rating: Masterpiece (99)


8 Responses to “The Shining (rewatch)”

  1. JamDenTel said

    “Great party, isn’t it?”

  2. Great review. I love this movie as much as you do.

  3. Thank you so much for your review. If you have not had a chance to do so, I strongly recommend reading Juli Kearns’ wonderful, and very well researched shot by shot analysis of this incredibly deep film. It is not something to be done in one sitting, and I am considering a second reading of it. But it is simply fantastic. I believe that the scene you are referencing, the scene with Jack and Grady in the bathroom of the Gold Room, and Jack’s scene in room 237 are some of the greatest scenes ever put to film, both in horror, and/or film in general.

    Most Sincerely, Chris Howley

    Quincy, Massachusetts, USA

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