The Shining is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. And when I say "disturbing," I don't refer to its brief images of violence and gore. It's more than pervasive sense of unease that you experience from the very start of the film. There are certain directorial choices that Kubrick makes that subtly clue you in to there being something very wrong with most of, if not all, the characters in the story.
Take, for example, the opening shots of the film. We see a car driving along a mountainside rode as eerie music plays over the soundtrack. The aircraft that was used to perform the shot feels like it's moving way too fast, as though the camera was attached to the bottom of a Harrier jet rather than the typical helicopter. The conversations between Jack Nicholson and the other actors feel stagey, awkward and overly cheery, as though they were spoken by grown, male children of the Stepford Wives. We cut to a five-year-old and his mother watching television, during which they have a conversation that seems to be way above the comprehension and emotional maturity for someone so young, yet here it is. It somehow feels less weird when the boy starts talking through his index finger.
I focus on these early parts of the film because I have seen The Shining several times, and the horror-centric parts have been discussed to death. Kubrick released the film in 1980, just as the slasher genre was getting its start, so American audiences were about to witness more sex, bloodshed and nihilism than they could handle. Kubrick's characteristic detachment to his film-making enables The Shining to get under our skin in a way that no amount of pitchforks through Kevin Bacon's throat ever could. The justly famous Steadicam shots of Danny riding his Big Wheel through the halls of the hotel are showy, to be sure, but they're also entrancing. In a film that is ostensibly about paranormal influence unleashing our basest instincts, Kubrick spends an awful lot of time introducing us to the hotel's geography. I'd argue that this places us squarely in the mindset of boredom and loneliness that causes the film's later mayhem. The ghosts are just there incidentally.
There's also the existence of the 2012 documentary, Room 237, which tries to unravel the mysteries and potential hidden meanings behind Kubrick's film. It's an enjoyable exercise, but ultimately pointless. To watch the post-2001 films by that director is to engage in his distinct sense of still atmosphere. Sure, I'm curious what the big idea of the man in the dog costume blowing the other man is all about, but will I enjoy the film all the more for it? Not likely.