Set Design Hijinks

It is established now by many theorists, most notably Rob Ager, that Stanley Kubrick purposely designed the set of The Shining to be confusing.  I don't believe he would take credit for this technique.  It was done in plenty of other horror films, in fact it seems to be a technique used in all the best horror films.  You can see set anomalies used in the early silent film era horrors such Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu.  Shirley Jackson wrote her Hill House to be all bad angles and Robert Wise designed the set the same way.  So Kubrick did not set a precedent.

Another film that used set anomalies was Rosemary's Baby.  The Bramford set was purposely designed to disorientate and confuse not only the viewers but the actors themselves.

Watch at time mark 10:33 in which Mia Farrow states that The Bramford set had tape marks and map directions for the actors to use.  Otherwise THEY WOULD NOT KNOW WHERE THEY WERE HEADING!  She even admits she never understood the spatial layout of the apartment set.

It is amazing to me that a simple thing as wacky set design can cause us so much unease, fear and confusion.  It really highlights how our brains are hardwired to deal with certain assumptions about geometrical spaces.

My commentary on Rosemary's Baby can be read HERE.

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