This movie is an excellent example of horror for many reasons. As such, I want to take my time and explore some reasons that explain why.
The first of these is depth. One great example of depth in this movie is one of the hallway scenes following the child on the tricycle. I say that it has a great sense of depth because of the symmetry of the hallway and the hallway’s narrowness. That same symmetry also gives us a proper sense of balance. The uniform nature of the hallway is repetitive but visually appealing. In addition, the length of the scene itself plays a role in giving the viewer this feeling of longevity. The fact that it’s aesthetically pleasing also works in its favor. On top of that, I think it’s important to note the use of perspective here. Following the view of the child here, we’re left wondering what’s around every turn almost as much as he (probably) is. This is successful because it’s a more passive method of adding suspense to situations.
Another well-made scene that plays off of the idea of lighting and balance is this one:
Here, we see the same idea of symmetry and balance with the walls of the hotel. It’s also worth noting that there’s a juxtaposition of that symmetry with the chaos of the scene itself. Something that seems as though it should be ordered and neat obviously isn’t. The fact that it’s littered with two corpses and the walls are covered in blood just make the entire ordeal frightening. All in all, I’d say it’s an effective use of material to display the gruesome nature of the move in one of it’s less subtle displays.
This movie was rich with detail and, to avoid an obvious example, I wanted to refrain from using the class, “Here’s Johnny!” scene. But I think that very scene works in its own way, again, by displaying a grand sense of the foreground/background. A close-up of Jack Nicholson’s face as he smiles while Shelley Duvall screams her head off, one close and the other, far.