Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a suspense filled horror film based on a Stephen King novel, made in 1980.
Mise en scene and intense sound create acute, gripping scenes throughout the film leaving the audience engrossed and terrified by its strikingly different style and effect. Jack Torrence, his wife and son move to an isolated hotel, where Jack is the caretaker throughout the winter closure. Jack’s son Danny has an unnerving sixth sense which enables him to see the horrific past of the hotel.He has an inner spirit named Tony.
(This is his middle name and also the name of his late grandfather. Could Tony be the spirit of his grandfather warning him of impending dangers? ) This gift is known as “The Shining”. Cabin fever has a profound effect on Jack and he progressively becomes more and more paranoid, psychotic and out of control, attempting to murder his family after an encounter with the apparition of Grady, the man who began the terror that now haunts the Overlook Hotel.The “Redrum” scene is one of the most captivating and chilling in the film, with the mise en scene and sound both intensifying the scene’s agonising anticipation.
The scene begins with Danny creeping into his sleeping mother’s bedroom which is small, confined, stark and dimly lit. The furniture is old and worn. The colours are dark and bleak. Everything in the room seems off balance.
For example, the books on the shelf are not lined straight, the magazines on the bedside table are askew, the lampshade next to Danny’s mother is tilted and the dressing table is strewn with varying objects.The mother’s character has been given very pale face make up with a sharp contrast to the colour of her lips. Everything the viewer sees gives a sense of unease. To the right of the bed is a closed door leading to the bathroom which is shown to the audience as a possible escape route, but also a possible barrier to escape.
Dramatic, chilling music is used as non diegetic sound, drawing the viewer deeper and deeper into the anticipation. Danny repeats his occult-like chantings “redrum, redrum, redrum, redrum” in an almost inhuman voice that is not his own.He appears to be possessed by Tony, driven by Tony’s need to express fear. The combination of the music, Danny’s eerie voice and the dimly lit room transforms the scene into a menacing, intense experience for the viewer.
As Danny nears the bed he reaches for the knife which has been previously placed there by Wendy, his mother, as a form of protection for herself and Danny. This has now ironically become the object of potential massacre. The music is a constant, chilling tone interspersed with bursts of high pitched, dramatic notes.The viewer is never quite sure which way it will go.
Danny turns and slowly approaches the dressing table which is placed opposite the foot of the bed. The dressing table mirror is large and reflects the view of the whole room. From our experience of horror films, we know the mirror plays a significant part in heightening the expectancy. They show the viewer things that the character may not yet be aware of, such as shadows, objects having been moved or unexpected figures passing by or appearing as if from nowhere.
The viewer is given an irrational sense of wanting to yell “look behind you” even though we know, it’s just a film. The mirror projects more than actual objects, it portrays vicariousness and angst without anything definite having to be seen at all. There is no vibrancy or striking colour in the scene at all, until the crucial element – the use of red lipstick, the only primary colour in the scene, jolts and draws the viewer into its importance and the sense of impending doom. Danny begins to write with the lipstick.
We know whatever is written is climactic but he is writing backwards and it seems disjointed and inconcise. He turns and walks towards his mother, his chants of “redrum” becoming louder. As his mother wakes and screams Danny’s voice returns to normal as the camera flicks to the mothers view in the mirror of the true meaning of what has been written – murder. And then crash.
Jack is outside and striking the door with an axe. Danny and his mother move to the barren bathroom. Their only escape route a tiny window which only partially opens.Danny can just about fit, his mother must stay inside and contemplate her fate.
Earlier in the movie Jack is clean shaven with slicked back hair and a sense of refinement. Now we see him limping, his hair is unkempt, he is stubbly and his clothes are shabby. His use of a familiar children’s rhyme and the fanatical expression on his face clearly defines to the viewer his deranged state of mind as the scene culminates with a close up shot of the butchered door , the psychotic eyes of Jack and the famous line- “Heeeere’s Johnny”!