“I don’t think there’s anything here that can hurt you.”
Down to its bare knickers, The Shining is a haunted house story
Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel is a menacing figure in his novel. It’s not just haunted by the ghosts and visions of bad times – it’s a living thing, with wants and motivations entirely of its own. It uses the ghosts on the Torrance family, moving them as pieces on a chessboard. It’s ultimate win? To absorb them into the hotel.
My dad said of state schools, “They will eat you up and spit you out.”
The Overlook eats and eats and turns you into its teeth.
But the Overlook doesn’t want Papa Jack and Mama Wendy. Oh no, the hotel’s eyes focus solely on Danny, the seven year old son of the Torrance family. Danny has something dubbed “the shining” (roll credits). In simple terms, he’s a psychic, and a very powerful one at that. The Overlook wants to devour Danny and his gifts, encompassing his very being. Wendy is logs in the way, while Jack is the key to Danny Boy.
King slowly builds the tension in The Shining with isolation. The mountains trap the Overlook Hotel, one road in and out. With only the Torrance family, it very quickly becomes lonely and claustrophobic. And that’s before the snow starts to fall. When it does, the only things are blank whiteness and the screaming of the wind.
THEN THE OVERLOOK WAKES UP
The book describes Danny as a battery, bringing the hotel to life where it had only been images. It terrorizes Wendy with voices and laughter, literally goes for Danny’s throat, and it drives Jack to the depths of hell.
Jack starts out a troubled man plagued with sobriety, only wanting to do well by his family. But as the days tick by, and the snow forever falls, the Overlook starts getting in his head, leading him to believe that the hotel wants him as, quote, “top managerial timber.” The Overlook supplies alcohol to a very thirsty man, gives him visions of beautiful women and parties of the highest class.
But it’s all a lie. The antagonist of the book is the descent into madness as Jack is absorbed into the Overlook, not as a prize, but as a conduit to his gifted son. The martinis go down the throat, and violence is bred as sick testament to addiction and absolute solitude.
The Shining was an absolute joy to read. Five out of five Cthulhus for me. It built up tension, provided decent scares as the reader follows the madness, and ended with a fiery flourish. The creepiest part? The hedge animals that move when you’re not looking, stalking you amongst the chest deep snow.(5 / 5)
Photo Credits: Cover of The Shining, paperback cover from Amazon.com; The Stanley Hotel in Feb, Estes Park, CO, from Wikimedia user Sgerbic