Apologies to Stephen King, but when I think of The Shining, I think of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film. While King has long and vigorously objected to Kubrick’s liberties in adapting the story, I’d argue it’s one of those oft-listicled cases where the film is better than the book. Granted, the horror writer has made several justified criticisms of the film’s misogynistic portrayal of Shelly Duvall’s character, but he has also confessed to a total indifference to movies, telling Rolling Stone, “I see [film] as a lesser medium than fiction, than literature, and a more ephemeral medium.” In this instance, at least, he’s dead wrong. Movie lovers have been obsessing over every blessed detail of Kubrick’s The Shining for 36 years and show no signs of stopping.
Part of the reason the story works better on film than on the page is that The Shining is what one might call an architectural horror—its monster is a building, the Overlook Hotel, and Kubrick wisely exploited the idea to its maximum potential, adding an additional structure, the topiary maze, as a further instantiation of the story’s themes of isolation, entrapment, and existential dead ends. Video game designers—many the same age as the film’s young protagonist Danny when the movie came out—surely paid attention. The long takes of Danny’s exploration of the ominous, empty mountain lodge now, in hindsight, resemble any number of virtual console and PC worlds in many a first-person game.
Now joining the architecturally-obsessed reimaginings of The Shining is “Shining 360,” a project by digital artist Claire Hentschker. She describes it as:
“A 30-minute audio-visual experiment for VR derived from the physical space within Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘The Shining.’ Using photogrammetry, 3D elements are extracted and extruded from the original film stills, and the subsequent fragments are stitched together and viewed along the original camera path.”
In other words, the project allows viewers to move around, using 360-degree Youtube video, in a digitally fragmented space built out of the first 30 minutes of the film. Be aware that there are browser restrictions, but if you open the video in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Opera, you’ll be able to navigate through the space using your mouse or the WASD keys.
It’s a very weird experience. The Overlook’s interior exists in contiguous 3D photographic blobs suspended in black nothingness—giving one the feeling of reaching the edge of some previously-believable video game world and finding out there’s nothing beyond it. And it’s made all the creepier by the near-exclusion of the very few people the hotel does contain—with the exception of a kind of residue of partial bodies—and by a droning, one-note ambient synthesizer score. This isn’t the first time Hentschker has used the film’s spatial uniqueness as computer art. In the short student video above from 2015, she introduces a wonky technical precursor to “Shining 360” that also thematically addresses the movie’s misogyny: “Mapping the Female Gaze in Horror Movies.”