A Kubrick Scholar Discovers an Eerie Detail in The Shining That’s Gone Unnoticed for More Than 40 Years

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining pulls off the uncommon feat of inhabiting a genre without falling victim to its vices. But exactly which genre does it inhabit? Horror? Meta-horror? Supernatural thriller? Psychological drama? Most of the pictures made for these broad fields of cinema share a dispiriting lack of re-watchability, especially those reliant on the device of the twist ending: M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, for example, which now, 24 years after its release, is enjoyed primarily as an artifact of its cultural era. But over the past four decades The Shining has only become a richer viewing experience, and one that continues to yield heretofore unseen details.

In the new video above (and an associated Twitter thread), Kubrick scholar Filippo Ulivieri exposes one such detail — or rather, a whole series of them. Throughout his performance as the Overlook Hotel’s increasingly troubled caretaker Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson keeps looking directly at the camera. “I’m not talking about when he looks at the camera because he’s talking to someone else,” says Uliveri. “I’m talking about all the times in which Jack Torrance looks at the camera, but there’s no one to look at.”

All are “very brief moments, captured by a few frames of film,” or even just one. But given how many times it happens (much more often than the one fourth-wall-breaking glance already acknowledged by Shining exegetes), as well as Kubrick’s well-known perfectionist attention to detail, all this can hardly be an accident.

Despite the existence of documentary footage that shows Kubrick explicitly telling Nicholson to look down at the camera in one shot, this choice has remained, as it were, overlooked. But what to make of it? It could mean that “we are not safe from Jack’s fury. He knows where we are; he may come for us next.” Yet he also looks at the camera well before descending into insanity. “Who is looking at Jack? Ghosts. The ghosts of the Overlook Hotel.” Perhaps “Jack felt their presence from the very beginning. So the camera in The Shining must be… well, a ghost itself.” But if the subjective camera represents the ghostly point of view, “does that mean that I am a ghost, too?” And more importantly for fans, does that mean Kubrick outdid Shyamalan nearly twenty years before The Sixth Sense came out?

via Metafilter

Related content:

Watch Jack Nicholson Get Maniacally Into Character for The Shining’s Iconic Axe Scene

Stanley Kubrick’s Annotated Copy of Stephen King’s The Shining

Room 237: New Documentary Explores Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Those It Obsesses

Decoding the Screenplays of The Shining, Moonrise Kingdom & The Dark Knight: Watch Lessons from the Screenplay

Go Inside the First 30 Minutes of Kubrick’s The Shining with This 360º Virtual Reality Video

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining Reimagined as Wes Anderson and David Lynch Movies

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (37)
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  • Ian Keith says:

    An irrelevant detail in a boring movie that is one of three of Kubrick’s worst films (along with “Fear and Desire” and “Killer’s Kiss”) Nicholson’s character hits the skids so quickly (his casting doesn’t help either), Scatman Crothers is dispatched so abruptly that there is little to no suspense.

    The movie is a a bunch of beautifully filmed, but irrelevant spooky moments that are just thrown together and don’t add up to much.

    I love reading everyone’s insane desire to read so much into the ending, the undiscovered camera angles, Shelly Duvall’s trauma…..for Pete’s sake, it’s just a rare misfire by one of the greatest directors of all time.

  • rick says:

    the here’s johnny scene is a delightfully performed and filmed scene.

    I reference it through multiple animation classes.

    Direction, response, and even alpha channels.

    i delight in cutting a circle into a blank piece of paper and asking them what’s the most favorite line from the “Shining”. Redrum is a good guess…but the answer is…..

    I have students from z15?years ago that know exactly what the illusivealoha channel is from the first exposure.

  • Jedi Superstar says:

    When it was released amid controversy and much love and hate, I found it to be entertaining and years later I still do. Sometimes we try so hard to dissect these movies and to speak about them in a ridiculous way, we try to read every implied detail that we lose what the most important factor is, did it entertain us? George Romero himself told me that he did not write any political or social subtext in Night Of The Living Dead, however since it first came out people who study film and film critics have constantly insisted on the political and social commentary that Romero supposedly put in the film, yet never existed. He said all he wanted to do was scare the hell out of an audience and entertain them. It was supposed to be like an EC comics book come to life!!! I find that sometimes too much critical thinking about a movie will ruin the very fact that it is, in fact, a movie. A work of art to be enjoyed and to entertain us. We all need to remember that the goal and intent was to tell a story that would interest an audience enough for anyone to care .. and in that regard, this film is a smashing success!!!

  • Trollharder says:

    The question is, why do you hate this film enough to comment like this? Clearly, the vast majority love the Don l movie.

    I think it’s just that you want to provoke a deeply visceral response from the movie’s fans. A troll moment through and through.

    If it’s actually that you hate it sand needed to comment, that’s great. Everyone deserves their own opinion.

    Even when it’s wrong.

  • John says:

    Uhm…you’re a teacher? Man that explains so much about our current youth.

  • John says:

    @troll Actually that’s the funny thing about opinions, they’re only wrong to those who disagree with them and in fact, none of them, not a single one are actually right or wrong bud. And I’d actually be willing to say that YOU are far more of a troll than the individual you’re attacking and alleging to be a troll. He just merely stated his opinion about the movie discussed in this article. He didn’t like it. That’s another crazy thing, art, music, movies are all SUBJECTIVE and therefore not everyone is going to like or dislike all movies, songs, etc. hence why they are entitled to their OPINIONS of it, which are neither right nor wrong. Sounds more to me that you’re just a fanboy of the movie who got his wittle snowflake feelings hurt, and not even a fan so much of Kubrick seeing as he actually praised him, just not this particular outing from him, and therefore lashed out at him like…well like a troll. Just like a troll would do if someone was crossing the trolls bridge without the trolls permission.

  • Daniel says:

    When a comment is better than the article itself.

  • Tim P says:

    What a weird headline. Why do you assume that out of the millions that have seen The Shining that this person in the article made some huge discovery? Alsothough it does obviosly happen in the movie, freezing the frame at a certain exact point during an eye or head sweep hardly proves fourth wall breaks.

  • CCC says:

    I liked it.

  • Chris says:

    @Ian Keith Dick Hallorann’s death made the greatest and most lasting impression on me as a kid. More than any other scene in the film. It wasn’t used to build suspense as much as to signify the abandonment of hope. Kubrick was willing to sacrifice a long, satisfying search of the hotel, full of potential thrills, for the instant and demoralizing shock of the axe blow.

    I was young when I first watched it (9 or 10, I believe)and I remember the absolute gut punch I felt when the “hero”, who was supposed to save the day, failed so quickly and miserably. This wasn’t supposed to happen!

    I was used to films and stories where a person or external force of good would appear during a time of desperation and make everything right. So much so, that I remember spending the remainder of the film totally expecting Hallorann to get up, pull the axe from his chest, and put it in the back of Jack’s head. Just in the nick of time.

    As much as I liked Hallorann as a character and wanted so badly for him to “win”, it was actually kind of refreshing (in hind sight) and I suppose it helped teach my young mind that, in real life, there isn’t always someone there to save you.

  • James says:

    This is an example of what happens when you watch something a million times and are desperate to have a new perspective. You start looking and focusing on mudane things that likely have no relevance to anything. Also. It’s a 43 year old movie. So who cares!

  • Shel says:

    Jeez…You apparently don’t care, but some people do. If someone wants to try to find a new twist or perspective, they have every right to do so. The video essay was interesting, regardless of whether I think it’s true. Why do you feel you have to categorize the author as someone “who watches a movie a million times and is desperate to find a new perspective.” Investigation is alright. Looking for something new is okay too. So just because you don’t think it’s relevant, why be an ass and crap all over it. Just keep your crap in your own toilet!

  • Shawn says:

    When I think about the first time I saw The shining the first thing to come to my mind is the two little girls at the end of the hallway! Scared the living.. out of me!

  • Sum Yung Guy says:

    Some people don’t have a clue what they are talking about. This move was anything but boring.

  • Jimmy fuckslut says:

    When I think about your mother’s wet asshole I cream my banana pajamas

  • Daniel Thaler says:

    Look, the film was a huge success and most people I’ve ever spoke to thought it was a great movie. It was a great movie. All of this minutia you are going on and on about didn’t leave people muttering loudly to each other as they left the theater. “Did he glance or look into the camera at times?” Yes, you pointed that out to us. Did that make or break the movie, or just give you something to get a paycheck for an essay? I’d say follow the money. How long ago was The Shining made, and your going on about this NOW? Even your accent gives no credence to your phantasms. it’s all from your head, not Kubrick’s, unless you sat down with the man and discussed it. He’s been dead for years. Critics. Why do we need them, to make up our minds and interpretations for us.?

  • Nick says:

    I never understood what people thought was so brilliant about “The Shining” either. The material might have had potential but all of it went up in smoke long ago and Kubrick’s movie set the fire. I found the movie to not only be confused but rather lame at the same time. This is one instance where The Razzie’s got it right by giving Kubrick a worst director nomination. I think he was obviously after a paycheck with this one and while he is a great film maker I think he is also highly overrated. I can’t think of any film Kubrick has done that has a Tarantino or even a Scorsese or Coppola level of brilliance. He went out with “Eyes Wide Shut” saying he regretted making it and thought it was a bad movie but the fact is it is far from his worst movie and one of the better films he has made. I think if the audience never chose to over hype “The Shining” it would have faded into oblivion with no need for Kubrick to even admit that it was terrible.

  • Mi5an2thr0py says:

    The very horrible thought that people actually believe or think Kubrick is some grand director is so far fetched that I can’t even begin to fathom the alleged reality they live in. ANY movie that I have seen from this dude is mediocre at best. F… his vision, idea or whatever other lame excuse anyone wants to call it. Hence the reason the man whom wrote said book that this was horrible I quote “. I think he did some terrific things but, boy, he was a really insular man. In the sense that when you met him, and when you talked to him, he was able to interact in a perfectly normal way but you never felt like he was all the way there. He was inside himself.”

    Clockwork orange was horrible in my opinion. If I wanted to watch a bs half ass snuff film then I would just watch the real deal. The fact that there are scholars whom have apparently ” studied” this bs is one of the most asinine things I have ever heard of.

    Kubrick butched the story let alone the idea and thought behind it. Yes I enjoy the movie but he massacred the book for no apparent reason. Other than his big head ego and he thought so much of himself. His artistic vision if you call it that.

    He is a joke and the fact that people are so hellbent head over heels on his dick and studying this shit, goes to show the state of society and the “GREAT” things that are to come. Lmfao get real

  • Amanda says:

    This isn’t a secret. In fact it has been discussed on documentaries about the film. And Kubrick sucks anyway.

  • That guy says:

    “He went out with “Eyes Wide Shut” saying he regretted making it and thought it was a bad movie but the fact is it is far from his worst movie and one of the better films he has made.”

    And that’s where shitty opinions come from. Kubrick was right about Eyes Wide Shut. It was bad. And so are you.

  • Paul E Turner says:

    People who didn’t like the film. Obviously were looking for something else. Seen it as a kid in the theater. Also I just had to have a copy on DVD.
    Really loved the soundtrack/Score. Wished it was Available on CD.
    I was held in absolute intrigue as to what scene was gonna happen next.
    The whole film was amazing to me. Right up to seeing Jack in the Picture.
    I immediately had to go read the book.

  • Tammy says:

    Jack Nicholson does this in every movie. He can’t stop himself from looking at the camera.

  • David says:

    There is a video on YouTube that proposes that Shelley Duvall’s character is actually the one descending into madness. After watching the explanation given, and rewatching the movie, it’s easy to agree with this point of view. Look it up and check it out. It will definitely give you another perspective on this classic film.

  • Amelia says:

    Oh ffs, people who obsess over this stuff need to touch grass. They fuss over every little frame, and read WAY too much into things that were never there in the first place.

    Kubrick was a stickler for details, yes, but he is still a human who makes mistakes. His films are full of them, just like most other films. To say “it MUST be intentional because it’s KUBRICK!” is as asinine as claiming Michael Bay films are secretly genius because all those explosions are actually a nod to the bombing of Hiroshima.

    Get real.

  • Amelia says:

    Stop. Just, stop. No, that’s not what the film is about, and it never was.

  • John Mack says:

    I enjoyed the movie, but it never felt like Jack was the husband or father. He’s so distant from them even before he flips out. This adds to the eeriness to me and it was more than planned this I’m sure. Spooky movie!

  • TJG says:

    Here’s a question: does Torrence make similar glances in other directions where there is no one?

  • Kris89 says:

    Losers! You guys are so lame it’s not even funny. Getting all crazy over some movie that’s half boring, half scary. Honestly though, it’s also kinda cute. How about this, it’s an old movie, so what get over it, no one really cares what anyone thinks so get off your phones out of your mom’s house and grow some balls so you can find a girlfriend and do something with your lives.

  • Jonathan says:

    This! Thank you!

  • Dave says:

    First off, the dude is Kubrick scholor and he just noticed Jack looking at the camera? I have not seen the movie in a long time but my friends and I watched it every time it was on tv back in the 1980’s we would roar with laughter at this fabulous comedy. That people would take this movie seriously blows my mind.

  • Calvin Rydbom says:

    Well I certainly agree with you Ian that I never understood the complete reverence for The Shining that so many have. You must realize that you and I are in the distinct minority for people that don’t think this is a great film.

  • Spank_Zelda says:

    Well kids… Whether you love Kubrick’s movies or take the time to point out the crappiest ones you feel he’s ever done, remember this… He’s made more money than any one of us will ever see. And since his death – people continue to remember and memorialize and praise him for his works and contributions to the entertainment world and WE continue to forget those who used to be in our lives and we are forgotten even though we’re still alive. Cheers, Stanley! Had I only been born a decade sooner. I would have loved to have been there with you ❤️

  • Spank_Zelda says:


  • Peter Thomas says:

    Jack Nicolson is HAL
    All work an no play makes Jack a dull boy…….over a 100,000 times. Only a computer would do that.
    Wake up to your new world of the AI devil as prophisized in the Bible and Quran developed by the CCP government, Huawei, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Elon Musk, Open AI, Tesla Skynet and Terminators and Neurolink.

    It is now humanities responsibility to halt AI or face apocalyptic extermination since AI is a threat to the Universe. Just watch all the Terminator movies and TV series to understand why AI is the devil.

  • Randall says:

    Are you really Stephen King writing under a pseudonym again?

  • NativeAngeleno says:

    This thread is more a reflection on the mental states of its authors than anything Kubrick did or didn’t do. As if reading criticism from a medieval audience proclaiming the long-expired halflife of Le Roman de la Rose (cuz among other eternal insights it was old news and who cares). That The Shining, which was no Dr Strangelove or 2001, was itself a comment on the vacuousness of readers of shittily-written Stephen King trash STILL BEING KICKED AROUND BY MOBS OF TYPISTS 43 YEARS LATER.

  • Joseph Staab says:

    Sir, that is one of the greatest comments of all time! “The Shining” came and went in 1980 because audiences recognized it for the crashing bore that it is. I’ve seen pudding commercials with more suspense. I was so stoked to see this film that I drove 100 miles to catch a showing the night before it officially opened in Denver. For years I considered suing Warner Brothers for the wasting these precious minutes of my life. The only interesting image was the blood pouring out of the elevator and we’d been seeing that for six months in the trailer. Stanley Kubrick had NO CLUE what to do with the source material and kept rewriting on the fly hoping to creat magic. He didn’t. Instead, he shot somewhere between 70 to 159 takes of every scene and then inevitably used the ones of Jack Nicholson at his over-acting best. Who can ever forget that supreme cinematic moment as the camera slowly and agonizingly zooms in on Nicholson’s tortured face, while the spooky music swells and swells, and just when you can stand no more, Stanley masterfully crash cuts to a black screen and the bone-chilling word, “Wednesday”. He should have done jail time for the mental and physical abuse he put Shelly Duvall through. Kubrick’s, “The Shining “, is an unwatchable turd whose only reason for existing now is so future film students can learn how NOT to make a horror film.

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