The Shining: Why Setting Is So Important in Horror | Teen Ink

The Shining: Why Setting Is So Important in Horror

September 20, 2018
By bmorabito226 BRONZE, Auburn, New York
bmorabito226 BRONZE, Auburn, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Horror, as a genre in film-culture, is designed to do what other popular types of movies intend to avoid. Part of what makes the horror genre so effective is the variety of ways filmmakers frighten and discomfort the viewer.  They use broad camera angles to convey a sense of desperation of the protagonists. They also often include surprise scares to catch the audience off guard. Even with the music they will often include eerie music as a way to surreptitiously add more tension to the film.  All of these techniques are beautifully shown in Stanley Kubrick’s book-to-film adaptation of Stephen King’s landmark novel “The Shining”. “The Shining” released in 1980, used a plethora of new techniques to culminate to one of the most celebrated horror films of all time. One of the main reasons “The Shining” is so celebrated is because of its vivid selection of setting that Kubrick intentionally chose.

Although the film was mainly filmed on a soundstage, the exterior shots of the large lodge featured in the movie were filmed at Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon.  The beginning shots of the film highlight the beautiful winter mountains local to the lodge, slowly panning over the white peaks. An ethereal invocation of Dies Irae within the music like a dark, foreboding cloud warning of the horrors to come. The snow is thick and bright on the mountains creating a sense of isolation within the lodge.  The pristine nature of the environment is accentuated by the towering trees bolstered by snow packed bark that surround the area.  The interior of the lodge is well furnished and made with extreme luxury in mind. Although the setting seems like it would be paradise for many, the descriptive shots of the lodge seem to invoke an ominous feeling of dread within the audience.  It is within the subtlety of the cinematics that one can find the reason why the setting of “The Shining” is such a horrific place for the story to take place.  The contrast between the size of the eden-like resort and the scarceness of those staying there during the film is an advantage of using such a large set. The lodge was made for thousands of people to stay there, but with only three staying there for the majority of the movie, the audience can’t help but wonder if they aren’t alone.  This is also supported with the purposeful scenes of large ballrooms with wide open spaces, dining halls that are empty, and a full kitchen stocked with food for only three people. The paranoia created by this effect is also felt by the characters within the film, which helps to draw the audience into the movie and make them feel what the characters are feeling.

The hedge maze is another very interesting part of the setting.  At the start of the

movie, before the major parts of the plot including horror take place, the hedge maze on site is described as a whimsical attraction for residents to enjoy.  Towards the end of the movie, we see a change of the idea of the hedge maze. It goes from being beautiful and natural, accompanying the pristine environment perfectly, to being a symbol of desperation and being lost in a loop.  The large arborous walls and dark corners of the maze tend to create suspense purely based upon its unknown layout and seemingly endless size. At the end of the film the hedge maze, which was once inconspicuous, was turned into a symbol of terror and confusion. Despite this, the terror of the lodge building seemed to be even more treacherous.

“The Shining” will always be considered a landmark piece of horror because it does everything that a horror film tries to do.  It scares us, puts us in uncomfortable positions, but also makes us learn something about ourselves. “The Shining” does this through using a beautiful set for filming and fantastic use of angles to accentuate the subtleties of the location.

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