In this series I will aim to discuss some of our key influences in greater depth and explain just what it is about these movies that have served as an inspiration on ONUS. Be that style, substance or just a general feeling, there’s something in these movies that has, in one way or another, served as a key inspiration on the film.
THE SHINING (1980) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
The Shining is probably the scariest movie I can think of. It’s not that it’s overtly frightening in its set-pieces or visual effects, it’s hardly The Thing with its gross-out body horror or The Wicker Man with its horrific finale. But The Shining is build upon unease. Everything about it serves the sole purpose of making you uncomfortable and keeping you off guard.
Kurbrick is often called out for being a cold director, but I think that is often what works to his advantage. His movies lack a certain sense of emotion. We are forced to simply watch these characters rather than become involved in them.
Human nature means that we will automatically try to relate. In The Shining we relate to them all, whether that be the tortured artist in Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance, the put upon mother in Shelly Duvall’s Wendy, or even the confused child Danny. But Kubrick shoots in such a way that we’re not allowed to get any closer than that. We project onto them, but we can’t experience this with them, we just have to watch as this stuff happens.
It makes for an unsettling and frightening experience. As the madness begins to seep through into the film, slowly simmering under the surface until its boiled above, we can only see it, we are powerless to help.
And here’s where I wanted to take inspiration. The Shining is perhaps the greatest ghost story ever committed to film, and Kubrick’s vision is undoubtedly, in my opinion at least, the definitive one. There is nothing that comes even as close to being so frightening, to me. And it’s all in the way it’s put together. That coldness. The clinical nature of it. It’s ghastly.
There’s not a single thing in The Shining that doesn’t feel deliberate. The music, all low rumbles and sudden strings, is seemingly out of time with the images on frame. We’ll get sudden bursts of violin for no reason, but it keeps you on edge.
Title cards appear seemingly at random. Why do we need to know this is Wednesday? What part does this play in the plot? And what’s more Kubrick isn’t interested in giving us these answers, he’d much rather just have the questions raised and then let us squirm. After all, he’s making a horror movie, and he wants it to be scary.
Imagery is a large part of what make The Shining so brilliant, and I’ve tried to capture that in ONUS. There are several points throughout our film where the imagery is brought to the forefront, and The Shining was most definitely on my mind when writing. We get these strange moments where scenes seemingly bleed into other scenes and things don’t seem to make sense. I wanted that. I wanted that uncertainty, that uncomfortableness. That decent into insanity.
And that’s what The Shining is, and in many ways that’s what ONUS is. A slow slip away from the realms of reality and into a nightmare. As the real world slowly drips away, revealing something far more sinister and horrifying beneath.
The Shining pays all of this off brilliantly with an iconic finale in the hedge maze. ONUS doesn’t have quite the same type of ending, but hopefully the film still captures that nightmarish quality. There is a darkness to our film that is indebted to Kubrick’s The Shining in more ways than one.
By the time the credits roll on The Shining you are left confused, shaken and unsure what you have just watched. If ONUS leaves audiences feeling a similar way, then I’ll know I’ve done something right.