The Shining (1980) is one I’ve not watched for ages. Definitely due a rewatch!
I love the pretty scenery in the opening. I’ll have to put Montana on my list of places to visit someday! The helicopter footage is kind of stomach-turning though.
After the credits, Jack Torrance arrives at the Overlook Hotel for an interview with the proprietor, Stuart Ullman. The hotel seems so nice and normal during the on-season!
Back at home in Denver, Jack’s son Danny is sceptical about living in a hotel for the winter, but says he doesn’t have any friends in Denver anyway. His only friend appears to be an imaginary one called Tony.
In the interview, Jack explains to Ullman that he wants five months of peace for his new writing project, and loves solitude. Ullman mentions a tragedy that happened in 1970 – a man called Delbert Grady came to act as caretaker and went mad, killing his family with an axe then shooting himself. Jack’s not bothered – he says his wife Wendy loves ghost stories and horror films (though we never see any evidence of this in the film!)
Danny is shown talking to Tony. Tony knows Jack got the job and is about to call Wendy, and indeed the phone immediately rings – Tony is basically Danny’s psychic side and knows there’s something bad about the hotel, showing him a vision of blood flooding a foyer and some creepy-looking twin girls.
(Apparently in the original cut, there’s an explanatory scene here where Wendy explains to a doctor that Jack gave up drinking because he accidentally hurt Danny’s shoulder when drunk, but this has been removed from the European cut. It would have helped things make a bit more sense later in the film!)
When the family arrive at the hotel, Danny sees the twins again. Ullman explains that the hotel was built on the site of an Indian burial ground! Clearly, this place was cursed from the start.
Wendy and Danny are being introduced to Mr Hallorann, the hotel chef, who is clearly also psychic as he calls Danny by his nickname of ‘Doc’ without anyone telling him the nickname. The storeroom is full of Heinz cans – I love how they’ve not changed in design since 1980! Hallorann psychically talks to Danny, letting him know he’s psychic too.
Hallorann explains to Danny about ‘the shining’ – at first, Danny doesn’t want to talk about it because Tony won’t allow it. Hallorann says that ‘when something happens, it can leave a trace of itself behind’, explaining why Danny is having visions of what happened in 1970. Apparently, only people with the shining can see it. ‘What about room 237?’ asks Danny. Hallorann says there’s nothing there, but tells him to stay out of the room.
A month later, Danny is riding his toy car around the hotel, while Wendy brings Jack his breakfast. Jack is only waking up at half past eleven at the moment, and hasn’t been getting any writing done (I know that feeling). He turns down Wendy’s offer of a walk outside, as he really needs to start work. Wendy is giving the kind of irritating writing advice that non-writers always give writers about how it’s just a case of getting in the habit every day, which nobody wants to hear if they’ve got writer’s block! Wendy and Danny go out to explore the giant maze outside, while Jack studies the model version of the maze instead of getting on with his writing.
On Tuesday (the caption doesn’t make it clear how many days later this is), Danny is riding his toy car again, and passes room 237 – it’s locked. Jack is working late on his typewriter, and is very grouchy and irritable with Wendy – he tells her not to interrupt him and sends her away. The next day, Wendy and Danny go out to play in the snow that has fallen overnight, while Jack stares vacantly into mid-air – he’s clearly already going mad.
On Saturday, Jack is still typing away. Wendy can’t get through to anyone on the phone and radios the local police – they reckon the phone lines are down because of the storm and that they won’t be fixed until the spring. Danny is on his toy car and runs into the twins again. ‘Hello, Danny, come and play with us!’ The vision is interspersed with their axe-murdered bodies, but they’re so creepy when alive that I’m not sure which is worse!
On Monday, Jack asks Danny to come to him for a hug, which is a really creepy scene due to Jack Nicholson brilliantly playing his onset of madness. Danny asks if Jack would ever hurt him and Wendy. Jack is sure that Wendy must have put the idea in his head.
On Wednesday, Danny is playing with miniature cars, and a ball rolls to him from somewhere – room 237 is now open, and he goes to investigate. Wendy, meanwhile, is working on the boiler downstairs, but hears a scream. Jack is having nightmares while sleeping at his desk, until Wendy wakes him. He says he dreamt that he killed Wendy and Danny, and seems to be having brief flashes of sanity – ‘I must be losing my mind’.
Danny comes in and won’t listen to Wendy’s exhortations to leave. His jumper is ripped and he has bruises at the neck, but won’t tell Wendy what happened. Wendy accuses Jack of being responsible, which would make a lot more sense if they’d left the scene with the doctor in this cut of the film!
Jack goes to the Gold Room bar and has a conversation with the not-really-there bartender Lloyd, complaining that Wendy won’t forgive him for accidentally hurting Danny three years previously. Wendy arrives in the bar in a panic – Danny has told her he was hurt by a crazy woman in room 237.
Meanwhile, Hallorann is watching TV in his room in Florida. I always love the discotastic nudes he has on his wall! He gets a psychic message from Danny about what’s happening.
Jack goes to visit the crazy woman in the bathtub in room 237. She’s naked and beautiful, so he kisses her, and the whole thing’s just weird – she turns into a decomposing corpse, laughing away. Meanwhile, Hallorann finds he’s unable to get through to the hotel by phone.
Jack is still able to come across as sane to Wendy – he suggests Danny caused the bruises to himself. Danny, meanwhile, is having visions of the word ‘redrum’ written on a door, and Jack goes totally mad at Wendy’s suggestion that they leave the hotel. Halloran gets the police to radio the hotel to make sure everything is all right.
Jack goes back to the Gold Room bar, and now sees it as totally full of people dressed up in ’20s fashions. He tries to pay Lloyd for his drink, but Lloyd says, ‘Your money’s no good here – orders from the house.’ It’s not really clear what this is about, so I’m going to assume that it’s because Jack’s ten-dollar bills are ’70s in design and thus unusable in the ’20s.
There’s then a strange bit of business with Delbert Grady, here acting as a waiter, cleaning Jack’s jacket in the bathroom after accidentally spilling advocaat on it. Grady claims never to have been the caretaker of the hotel, but does have a wife and two daughters. Jack tries to get Grady to recall the murder of his wife and children, but Grady insists Jack is the caretaker and always has been – ‘I should know, sir, I’ve always been here.’
Grady somehow knows about Danny calling Hallorann. Both he and Jack rather unpleasantly use the n-word to describe him, and I’m not sure what this is meant to prove. Grady seems to represent whatever weird supernatural power is sending Jack mad.
Jack intercepts the radio call from the police by breaking the radio, but Hallorann is already on a flight, and then drives through the snow towards the hotel. Meanwhile, Wendy, armed with a baseball bat and calling for Jack, finds that every sheet of the play Jack has been writing is just ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ typed over and over again. Jack startles her by arriving in the room, and is now clearly mad.
Danny is multitasking on the psychic stuff, listening to his parents’ conversation while having visions of the flood of blood and the ‘redrum’ writing. Wendy eventually whacks Jack with the baseball bat and puts him in the storeroom, locking it and grabbing a knife. However, she and Danny can’t leave the hotel, because Jack has sabotaged the snowmobile.
At 4pm, Jack wakes up in the storeroom due to hearing a knock on the door. It’s Grady, come to complain about Jack not having killed his family yet. When Jack promises that he’s not having second thoughts, Grady somehow unlocks the storeroom door. Meanwhile, Hallorann makes his way to the hotel in another snowmobile.
‘Redrum’, Danny keeps saying, having picked up a knife and lipstick, and writes the word on the door. Wendy wakes up just in time, as Jack is hacking his way through the door with an axe. She sees the reflected ‘redrum’ phrase ‘ – ‘murder’ – in the mirror, and tries to get the bathroom window open. She manages to send Danny through the window, but the gap is too small for her. Jack smashes through the bathroom door in the infamous ‘Here’s Johnny!’ scene, but Wendy stabs him in the hand, and then they both hear Hallorann’s vehicle arriving outside.
Danny runs through the kitchen and hides in one of the cupboards. Hallorann, meanwhile, has had a wasted journey, ’cause he immediately gets killed by Jack, causing Danny to scream and reveal his location. Danny escapes from the cupboard and runs outside. Wendy, meanwhile, has a weird vision of a man in a bear costume and another man in normal clothes in one of the bedrooms. I have no idea what this has to do with anything else at all.
Jack turns on the outdoor lights to try and find Danny, who runs into the maze. Jack follows his trail of footprints. Wendy finds Hallorann’s body, then has a vision of a party guest with a bloody head (again, I’m not sure why Wendy is suddenly seeing all these things!). Danny cleverly retraces his exact footprints and hides, in order to throw Jack off the trail.
Wendy has another vision – this time of the flood of blood that Danny has been seeing for the whole film. Danny escapes the way he came, leaving Jack in the maze, and finds Wendy; both of them escape in Hallorann’s vehicle. Jack collapses in the maze and freezes to death.
For the final scene, in the gold room, Jack is shown in a 1921 photo. This doesn’t really make any sense – does he transfer to another world in the past or something? Also, the image has to be super zoomed-in-on so that audiences watching on 1980 projection screens could actually see it!
Back to the slashers tomorrow.