The Story (continued)
The Shining (1980)
After learning that the Forest Service has been unable to reach the Torrances, Dick Hallorann is on a plane to Stapleton Airport in Denver. He phones a friend named Larry at Durkin's Auto Supply, a Snow-Cat rental facility in Boulder. He tells him that he will drive a rental car to Boulder and then rent a Sno-Cat that he can take to the Overlook in the snowstorm: "We got a very serious problem with the people who are taking care of the place. They turned out to be completely unreliable a--holes. Ullman phoned me last night and I'm supposed to go up there and find out if they have to be replaced."
Wendy and Danny sit and stare in front of a TV playing a Roadrunner cartoon [thematically similar in theme to the film's life and death chases]. She tells Danny that she will leave him for a few minutes to go talk to Jack. Armed with a baseball bat, she approaches toward Jack's work den in the Colorado Lounge. In the film's most frightening moment, a moment of pure terror and also a brilliant moment in cinema, Wendy, who has been forbidden to look at Jack's secret manuscript, looks down from above Jack's typewriter - she sights down on a single sentence. It is a familiar maxim (taught to schoolchildren) repeated many times on the piece of paper:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
["Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca." ("He who wakes up early meets a golden day.") - Italian version
"Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen." ("Don't put off until tomorrow what can be done today.") - German version
"No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano." ("Dawn doesn't hurry if you get up earlier.") - Spanish version]
Then to her horror as she realizes her husband is truly insane, his endlessly-repeating typographical configurations, all permutations and variations of the same sentence, are found on reams and reams of paper. [The pages were individually hand-typed for the production, not machine typed.] They reveal the self-deception of Jack's bankrupt, chauvinistic mind and spirit in his insipid script. From behind, Jack emerges, startles her and asks: "How do you like it?" Dread-filled, she jumps from fright, turning to see Jack's smiling, demonically insane, shining face, now transformed into a doppelganger Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Jack's mental vulnerabilities and failings [as a writer and breadwinner for the family, due to alcohol abuse] have been uncovered by his nagging wife, and he reacts with a mixture of disgrace, embarrassment, possession, and projected rage.
With his clairvoyant eyes and senses, Danny "shines" on Jack's perverse, deranged terrorization of Wendy. Jack poses sneering, sarcastic questions about their maladjusted, doomed family and "what should be done" about their son to correct the problem. Wendy admits that there may be concern, and Danny should be taken to a doctor. Having lost all self-esteem, Jack accuses her of being self-centered and blind to his own responsibilities and commitments at the Overlook:
Jack: ...I think you have some very definite ideas about what should be done with Danny. And I'd like to know what they are.
Wendy: (sputtering with fear) I think maybe he should be taken to a doctor.
Jack: You think maybe he should be taken to a doctor.
Jack: When do you think maybe he should be taken to a doctor?
Wendy: As soon as possible.
Jack (imitating cruelly): As soon as possible.
Wendy: Yes. Please.
Jack: You believe his health might be at stake.
Jack: You are concerned about him.
Jack: And are ya concerned about me?
Wendy: Of course I am.
Jack: Of course you are. Have you ever thought about my responsibilities?
Wendy: Oh Jack. What are you talking about?
Jack: (worked up) Have you ever had a single moment's thought about my responsibilities? Have you ever thought for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers? Has it ever occurred to you that I have agreed to look after the Overlook Hotel until May the first? Does it matter to you at all that the owners have placed their complete confidence and trust in me, and that I have signed a letter of agreement, a contract, in which I have accepted that responsibility? Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is, do you? Has it ever occurred to you what would happen to my future if I were to fail to live up to my responsibilities? Has it ever occurred to you? Has it?!
As he backs her up the stairs at the beginning of a prolonged stalking, she takes a prominent position above him, now that she has shamed him. She defensively swings the bat at him, wondering how to escape his homicidal, ferocious temper:
Wendy: (swinging the bat at him with short, chopping strokes) Stay away from me! I just want to go back to my room.
Wendy: Well, I'm very confused. I just need a chance to think things over.
Jack: You've had your whole f--king life to think things over. What good's a few minutes more gonna do you now?
Wendy: Stay away from me! Please! Don't hurt me!
Jack: I'm not gonna hurt ya. Wendy, darling, light of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just gonna bash your brains in. I'm gonna bash 'em right the f--k in.
Wendy: Stay away from me! Don't hurt me!
Jack: I'm not gonna hurt you.
Wendy: Stay away from me! Please!
Jack: Stop swinging the bat.
Wendy: Stay away from me!
Jack: Put the bat down, Wendy.
At the top of the stairs, Wendy escalates the disintegration of their hate-filled family and their immediate conflict by swinging and connecting. [The first actual blows that strike a spouse are hers!] The bat hits him on the hand and then on the head, sending Jack tumbling down the steep flight of stairs. She drags his unconscious body by the feet to the food storage locker and encloses him inside - surrounded by nationally-advertised products. The bash on the head has drawn blood and injured his leg, contributing to disturbed Jack's declining powers of sanity and health. Behind the storeroom door, he tries various approaches and tactics to get her to open the door. First, he viciously commands her to open the door immediately. A second strategy is to reason with her: "Lemme outta here and I'll forget the whole god-damned thing. It'll be just like nothin' ever happened." And thirdly, he appeals to her emotions and her pity: "Wendy, baby, I think you hurt my head real bad. I'm dizzy. I need a doctor. Honey, don't leave me in here." None of his approaches are effective.
Wendy tells him her plans - she will take Danny by Sno-Cat to Sidewinder - and then will bring back a doctor. Jack is amused: "You've got a big surprise coming to you. You're not goin' anywhere. Go check out the Sno-Cat and the radio and you'll see what I mean. Go check it out." He makes a long, demonic, maniacal belly-laugh. In the outdoor garage, Wendy investigates the vehicle and discovers that Jack has prevented her escape by cutting the distributor wires in the Snow-Cat, rendering it inoperable.
From outside the locker, a sleeping Jack is summoned by a knock on the door and Grady's echoing voice. The stern waiter reprimands him for ignoring his advice, and then continues to prod and incite marital violence. Grady, Jack's predecessor caretaker and the voice of the hotel, doubts that Jack can effectively discipline his family in the Overlook. Jack, the eternal caretaker, who is destined to murder his children (the next generation) over and over again, is ridiculed for not having "the belly" to commit more murders. Jack begs - and gives his word - to be given one more chance to "deal with this matter in the harshest possible way":
Grady: I see you can hardly have taken care of the business we discussed.
Jack: No need to rub it in, Mr. Grady. I'll deal with that situation as soon as I get out of here.
Grady: Will you indeed, Mr. Torrance? I wonder. I have my doubts. I and others have come to believe that your heart is not in this, that you haven't the belly for it.
Jack: Just give me one more chance to prove it, Mr. Grady. It's all I ask.
Grady: Your wife appears to be stronger than we imagined, Mr. Torrance, somewhat more resourceful. She seems to have got the better of you.
Jack: For the moment, Mr. Grady, only for the moment.
Grady: I fear you will have to deal with this matter in the harshest possible way, Mr. Torrance. I fear that is the only thing to do.
Jack: There's nothing I look forward to with greater pleasure, Mr. Grady.
Grady: You give your word on that view, Mr. Torrance?
Jack: I give you my word.
The supernatural spirit releases and unlocks the pantry door for Jack, substantiating the idea that more than spectral ghosts are at work in the hotel.
In the Torrance's apartment, Wendy sleeps in bed. Danny methodically repeats "Redrum" in Tony's voice as he picks up a sharp butcher knife on the nightstand next to his sleeping mother. He brandishes the knife over her and slides his finger down the sharp edge of the blade. Danny takes a tube of red lipstick from the dresser and writes "Redrum" on their bathroom door while bleating out the word - this fulfills his previous telepathic vision. His writing spells "Murder" in the dresser mirror's reflection - another of the film's uses of mirror imagery. Wendy understands the revelation in the mirror - Jack wants to murder her.
A crazed Jack is rapidly transformed into an axe-wielding homicidal madman with a deformed limp. He suddenly appears to murderously pursue his wife - he takes a long-handled fireman's axe to their apartment's front door and greets her with a familiar TV sitcom greeting for a suburban family:
Wendy, I'm home.
[This is Jack's first use of a quote from an insipid TV series or another show that he has seen in the media. He echoes his own words, thereby validating his own murderous brutality: "...it's OK. He saw it on the television."] Both Danny and Wendy retreat to the bathroom. Danny escapes and slides down a giant drift of snow resting next to their bathroom window, but Wendy is unable to fit through the ice-jammed window's narrow passageway. As Jack stalks her into the bathroom, he lurches after her with a loathsome, macabre sense of humor, envisioning them in a bizarre, tragic-comic fairytale in which he is the 'Big Bad Wolf' (or horror film convention: a werefolf!), and using President Richard Nixon's accent for the "Not by the hair on your chinny, chin - chin" phrase:
Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in...Not by the hair on your chinny, chin - chin...Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in!
The cartoonish nursery tale assumes a new meaning as he smashes his way into the bathroom door, with each stroke of the axe blade jutting through the wood - the visual arrangement suggests that he is actually striking her with each blow. His screaming and cowering wife, huddling in the corner [an homage to Lillian Gish's similar performance in D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919)] watches his progress with her butcher knife poised to strike. He peers through with an evil grin, announcing his presence again:
[In an ad-lib, Jack Nicholson uses sidekick Ed McMahon's famous TV greeting (with rising inflection on the first word) from the long-running talk show The Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) from 1962 to 1992. This film catchphrase has been repeatedly referenced by other films, such as Seed of Chucky (2004) by the devil/killer doll.]
Again, Wendy strikes the first blow, whacking his hand with her sharp blade when he tries to open the door handle. The grinding sound of Hallorann's approaching Snow-Cat perks up all their ears. Danny runs back inside and hides inside a metallic storage cabinet. Bent on destruction, Jack departs from his attack on Wendy, hunches himself over, and limps through the kitchen and lobby to find "the outside party" that Grady had warned about. As Hallorann calls out: "Anybody here?" Jack jumps out from behind a pillar, swings the axe at him, and puts it through his chest, leaving the sacrificed, murdered man lying across a large Indian design on the floor of the lobby. [The placement of the bloodied black man on an Indian design brings up multiple images of ethnic violence and hostility in American history. If Hallorann had the gift of telepathy and clairvoyance, wouldn't he have known of the ambush that he was "called" to? Also, Halloran's death in this exact spot was foreshadowed earlier by one of Danny's toys, a black teddy bear with red clothing on its torso, lying in the same position where Jack was throwing a tennis ball against the floor!] Danny screams in terror. Now obscenely evil, Jack hears Danny and knows his hiding place, causing the boy to run from the kitchen cabinet with his father carrying a blood-stained axe in pursuit.
Driven to madness herself, Wendy rushes upstairs looking for Danny. She hears echoes of chanting. Through one of the hotel room's open bedroom doors, she catches a disturbing, perplexing glimpse of a sexually perverse scene from the hotel's sordid past - another piece of evidence proving the entire family's possession of the 'shining' phenomenon. A man in a dog (or bear) outfit (with a open bottom) that masks his face, possibly a guest who has wandered up from one of the hotel's ancient costume balls, is stretched out over a formally-dressed male lover on a bed. The decadent sexual act of fellatio between the participants is interrupted - they look up and stare back at Wendy.
In the climactic conclusion, Jack hobbles and staggers after his son through the blizzard into the outdoor garden's icy maze. In marvelous, Steadi-cam tracking shots, the chase is captured through the winding, frozen tunnels and corridors. Pursuing his son with murderous intent and the threat of annihilation, Jack follows and chases after his son's footprints in the frosted snow, in a symbolic attempt to visit "the sins of the father" upon his own flesh and blood. He cries out with wild and inarticulate grunts:
Danny! I'm coming! You can't get away! I'm right behind ya.
In the hotel, Wendy, who is now insanely possessed with fear, witnesses enigmatic, troubling sights: Hallorann lying bloodied in the lobby; a tuxedoed, bloody-faced man (Norman Gay) toasting her with a glass and a smile: "Great party, isn't it?"; cob-webbed skeletons of past hotel guests seated in familiar positions; and the vision (familiar to Danny) of the elevator doors releasing torrents of blood.
Using an old Indian trick in an age-old game, Danny retraces his steps by backing up in his own footsteps in the snow and then hiding off to the side in some hedges. After Danny manages to escape the maze and leaps into his mother's arms, he cries in relief, "Mommy! Mommy!" [rather than Tony's greeting of "Mrs. Torrance"]. Presumably recovered, he and Wendy manage to flee in Hallorann's Snow-cat - his vehicle allows them to escape. They leave Jack in the convoluted maze - where he freezes and dies from the cold elements. The next day, a gruesome shot shows Jack's frozen face and body covered with ice and snow - he has frozen solid in his tracks. He has failed to fulfill the wishes of past, spectral forces to destroy his wife and son - his future posterity.
The closing shot is an extremely long tracking shot into a hallway outside the Gold Room toward one framed photograph - it is in a rectangular grouping of twenty-one black and white framed pictures which freeze moments of time on the wall. 1920s, Fitzgeraldian period music from a dance band plays in the background, the tune Midnight, the Stars and You. The black-and-white image of the picture is from the Overlook's evil time-zone, taken during the hotel's hey-day (1921) at the July 4th Ball - Independence Day. Broadly grinning and waving, a younger-looking Jack is forefront in the picture and dressed in black tie and dinner jacket. He has metaphysically survived within the past and is safely absorbed into the historical scene - 'independent' and reincarnated. And his image in plain view in the picture has been 'overlooked' throughout the entire story -- until the film's final shot. Behind him are ghostly revelers all dressed in smart, 1920s formal evening garb. The inscription: "Overlook Hotel / July 4th Ball / 1921." [Other interpretations could be that the celebration of Independence was symbolically ironic - that Jack actually embodies the spirit of the massacre of innocents, just as the Native-Americans were slaughtered by whites in the name of progress.]
After the credits play and the soundtrack finishes, the 1920s audience applauds, followed by the natural sound of the low din of audience chatter - it matches the noise of a film theatre's crowd when it exits, equating the film audience and hotel crowd as one and the same. Evil is timeless and spans eternity, and the Hotel survives to take its next victims. As Jack has reminded us, the potential for violence and murder is present in everyone.
[Note: A two-minute explanatory epilogue, following the climax in the maze, was cut shortly after the film's theatrical premiere, at Kubrick's direction. It was a hospital scene with a recuperating Wendy talking to the hotel manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) - she was told that searchers were unable to locate her husband's body.]
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AMC Filmcritic's Review of The Shining