“I'm awfully glad you asked me that, Lloyd. Because I just happen to have two twenty’s and two tens right here in my wallet. And I was afraid they were gonna be there until next April. So, here's what, you slip me a bottle of bourbon, a cool glass and some ice. You can do that, can't you, Lloyd? You're not too busy, are you?”
- Jack Torrance
Well Boils and Ghouls we’ve reached the top of this list. Before we dive into the final flick I have to ask you a question, was there ever any real doubt which movie would cap it all off? I’ve said for years that the single scariest movie I’ve ever seen is Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of Stephen King’s book.
That’s right, his interpretation.
Unless you’re either not a horror fan, if that’s the case why the fuck are you reading these essays? Or if you have been living in a cave, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears, or heavily sedated, you must know about the schism between most Kubrick and King’s fans.
In 1977 Stephen King was the hottest young writer in America. I know how weird that sounds these days since he’s now considered the godfather of modern horror and grandmaster of fiction, but there was a time when he was he youngster in the pack. At the same time Kubrick was the ‘it’ director. He was at the top of his game, a position he would maintain well into the 1980’s, and seemed like the only choice for turning The Shining into a feature film.
The results are controversial.
Before I continue I think I should do a little due diligence. So in the interests of full disclosure I need to say a few things. I am a King disciple, I consider him the greatest writer in the modern age, if not in American history. He works in words the way the great masters worked in colors, he is the single most significant influence in my creative life and I consider him my personal hero. The fact that he has produced a few duds (Rose Madder I’m glaring at you, you waste of potential) only makes me love him more. If he’d had a never broken string of successes I’d think he was some kind of robot.
On the other hand I’m not a huge Kubrick fan. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate his genius or love some of his movies, this is my number one all-time favorite scary movie after all. But I’ve never been part of the anti Kubrick crowd either. Besides The Shinning I also love his second to the last movie Full Metal Jacket but other than those two flicks, I’m kinda meh on his filmography… and I hate Eyes Wide Shut, pretentious piece of shit film.
So why all of the controversy?
Kubrick took King’s book, considered a seminal work of horror fiction, and reinterpreted large sections of it. While many of the details, characters, and actions remain unchanged between the book and the movie, whole sections of plot and motivation were either changed or completely excised from the filmed version.
King has not been recalcitrant when it comes to the movie version of The Shinning.
“I don’t get it. But there are a lot of things that I don’t get. But obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t,” he tells Rolling Stone. “The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, “Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.” And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.”
Kubrick was likewise candid on how he came to his final version of the story.
“The problem was to extract the essential plot and to re-invent sections of the story that were weak. The characters needed to be developed a bit differently than they were in the novel. It is in the pruning down phase that the undoing of great novels usually occurs because so much of what is good about them has to do with the fineness of the writing, the insight of the author and often the density of the story. But The Shining was a different matter. Its virtues lay almost entirely in the plot, and it didn’t prove to be very much of a problem to adapt it into the screenplay form. Diane and I talked a lot about the book and then we made an outline of the scenes we thought should be included in the film. This list of scenes was shuffled and reshuffled until we thought it was right, and then we began to write. We did several drafts of the screenplay, which was subsequently revised at different stages before and during shooting. To be honest, the end of the book seemed a bit hackneyed to me and not very interesting. I wanted an ending which the audience could not anticipate.”
Considering both men are rightfully considered masters of their preferred crafts—it’s not hard to see creative differences were inevitable. I think in the end we might have all benefitted from these differences. In 1997 director Mick Garris and Stephen King produced and presented a six hour television miniseries of The Shining which stuck closely to the book.
I can’t choose which version of The Shinning I love the most.
Have you seen the episode of Friends where Joey and Rachael make each other read their favorite books?
Yes I watched Friends and I liked it!
Anyway, Joey’s favorite book is The Shining and he explains to Rachael that when the book gets too scary you have to put it in the freezer. To this day that is one of the funniest and most profound things I’ve ever seen on television. If I’d have known that trick when I first read The Shining I would have employed it.
I might have slept better, or at all, that weekend.
The Shining is a horror novel by American author Stephen King. Published in 1977, it is King's third published novel and first hardback bestseller, and the success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre. The setting and characters are influenced by King's personal experiences, including both his visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his recovery from alcoholism. The novel was followed by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013.
The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny, who possesses "the shining," an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the horrific past of the hotel. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack's sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger.
The Shining was adapted into a feature film in 1980 by director Stanley Kubrick, with a screenplay co-written with Diane Johnson, which is regarded by some as one of the greatest films of all time. King himself was disappointed with the film, stating it had abandoned several of his book's major themes. The Shining was later adapted into a television mini-series in 1997, closely monitored by King to ensure it followed the book. King wrote the series himself and was reportedly unable to criticize the Kubrick version due to his contract.
The Shining mainly takes place in the fictional Overlook Hotel, an isolated, haunted resort located in the Colorado Rockies. The history of the hotel, which is described in back story by several characters, includes the deaths of some of its guests and of former winter caretaker Delbert Grady, who succumbed to cabin fever and killed his family and himself.
The plot centers on Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their five-year-old son Danny, who move into the hotel after Jack accepts the position as winter caretaker. Jack is characterized as an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic with anger issues troubled by past binges that, prior to the story, had caused him to accidentally break Danny's arm and lose his position as a teacher. Jack hopes that the seclusion at the hotel will help him reconnect with his family and give him the motivation needed to work on a play. Danny, unbeknownst to his parents, possesses telepathic abilities referred to as the "shining" that enable him to read minds and experience premonitions. Dick Hallorann, the chef of the Overlook, senses Danny's abilities and helps to explain them to him, giving Hallorann and Danny a special connection.
As the Torrance’s settle in at the Overlook, Danny sees frightening ghosts and visions. Although Danny is close to his parents, he does not tell either of them about his visions because he senses that the care-taking job is important to his father and the family's future. Wendy considers leaving Jack at the Overlook to finish the job on his own; Danny refuses, thinking his father will be happier if they stay. However, Danny soon realizes that his presence in the hotel makes the supernatural activity more powerful, turning echoes of past tragedies into dangerous threats. Apparitions take form, and the garden's topiary animals come to life.
The Overlook has difficulty possessing Danny, so it begins to possess Jack, frustrating his need and desire to work. Jack starts to develop cabin fever, and the sinister ghosts of the hotel gradually begin to overtake him, making him increasingly unstable. One day, after a fight with Wendy, Jack finds the hotel's bar fully stocked with alcohol despite being previously empty, and witnesses a party at which he meets the ghost of a bartender named Lloyd. As he gets drunk, the hotel urges Jack to kill his wife and son. He initially resists, but the increasing influence of the hotel proves too great. He becomes a monster under the control of the hotel, truly unable to control his dark side. Wendy and Danny get the better of Jack, locking him into the walk-in pantry, but the ghost of Delbert Grady releases him after he makes Jack promise to bring him Danny and to kill Wendy. Jack attacks Wendy with one of the hotel's croque mallets, but she escapes to the caretaker's suite and locks herself in the bathroom. Jack tries to break the door with the mallet, but she slashes his hand with a razor blade to slow him down.
Meanwhile, Dick Hallorann receives a psychic distress call from Danny while working at a winter resort in Florida. Hallorann rushes back to the Overlook, only to be attacked by the topiary animals and badly injured by Jack. As Jack pursues Danny through the Overlook, he briefly gains control of himself just long enough to tell Danny to run away, and that he loves him. The hotel takes control of Jack again, causing him to violently batter his own face and skull with the mallet so Danny can no longer recognize him, and Danny tells him that the unstable boiler in the basement is about to explode. Jack hurries down to relieve the pressure as Danny, Wendy, and Hallorann flee. Jack is too late; the boiler explodes and destroys the Overlook. Fighting off a last attempt by the hotel to possess him, Hallorann guides Danny and Wendy to safety.
The book's epilogue is set during the next summer. Hallorann, who has taken a chef's job at a resort in Maine, comforts Danny over the loss of his father.
“Hello, Danny. Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny. Forever… and ever… and ever.”
- The Grady Twins
It’s those little girls.
Seriously, nothing in a movie has ever scared me as much as those fucking creepy as serial killer ghost twins! I was maybe seven, the first time I saw The Shining and those little girls haunted my nightmares for years. Seriously, even now at thirty-eight I still have the occasional dream where those creepy little bitches make a cameo.
The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers. The film is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name, although the film and novel differ in significant ways.
In the film, Jack Torrance, a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. His young son possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Sometime after settling in, the family is trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, and Jack gradually becomes influenced by a supernatural presence, descends into madness, and ultimately attempts to murder his wife and son.
Unlike previous Kubrick films, which developed an audience gradually by building on word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, opening at first in just two cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide a month later. Although initial response to the film was mixed, later critical assessment was more favorable and it is now listed among the greatest horror movies, while some have viewed it as one of the greatest films of all time. Film director Martin Scorsese, writing in The Daily Beast, ranked it as one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Film critics, film students, and Kubrick's producer Jan Harlan, have remarked on the enormous influence the film has had on popular culture.
The initial European release of The Shining was 25 minutes shorter than the American version, achieved by removing most of the scenes taking place outside the environs of the hotel.
Jack Torrance arrives at the Overlook Hotel, interviewing for the position of winter caretaker, planning to use the hotel's solitude to write. The hotel, built on the site of a Native American burial ground, becomes snowed in during the winter; it is closed from November to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns Jack that a previous caretaker Grady developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. In Boulder, Jack's son, Danny, has a terrifying premonition about the hotel, viewing a cascade of blood emerging from an elevator door. Jack's wife, Wendy, tells a doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony and that Jack has given up drinking because he hurt Danny's arm following a binge.
The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef, Dick Hallorann, surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. To Danny, Dick explains that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls "shining". Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel has a "shine" to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay out of room 237.
A month passes; while Jack's writing goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel's hedge maze. Wendy becomes concerned about the phone lines being out due to the heavy snowfall and Danny has frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts acting strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts.
Danny's curiosity about room 237 overcomes him when he sees the room's door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack, asleep at his typewriter, screaming in his sleep. After she awakens him, Jack says he dreamed that he killed her and Danny. Danny arrives with a bruise on his neck and traumatized, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing him. Jack wanders into the hotel's Gold Room and meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him a drink while Jack complains about his marriage.
Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her a "crazy woman in one of the rooms" tried strangling him. Jack investigates room 237, encountering the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue over whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, filled with ghosts attending a ball. He meets the ghost of Grady who tells Jack that he must "correct" his wife and child and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann using his "talent". In Florida, Hallorann has a premonition that something is wrong at the hotel and flies back to Colorado. Danny starts calling out "redrum" and goes into a trance, referring to himself as "Tony".
While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers he has been typing pages of manuscript repeating "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". She is confronted by Jack, who threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She drags him into the kitchen and locks him in the pantry, but she and Danny are trapped at the hotel; Jack has sabotaged the hotel's two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who unlocks the door.
Danny writes "REDRUM" on the outside of the bathroom door in the family's quarters. When Wendy sees this in the bedroom mirror, the letters spell out "MURDER". Jack begins chopping through the quarters' main door with a fire axe. Wendy sends Danny through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack chops through the bathroom door as Wendy screams in horror. He leers through the hole he made, shouting "Here's Johnny!", but backs off after Wendy slashes his hand with a knife.
Hearing the engine of the snowcat Hallorann borrowed to reach the hotel, Jack leaves the room. He kills Hallorann and pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering ghosts and the cascade of blood Danny envisioned in Boulder. Danny lays a false trail to mislead Jack, who is following his footprints. Wendy and Danny escape in Halloran’s snowcat, while Jack freezes to death in the maze.
In a photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles amid a crowd of party revelers.
I was conflicted when I heard they were making a television miniseries out of The Shining. The book and the movie were two of my all-time favorites despite the glaring differences between them. Unlike many fans I’ve been able to separate and enjoy the two, and now I was being forced to examine a third version.
I watched and tried to maintain an open mind.
I really like the miniseries. It has its own kind of horror that is unique from the book or the movie. The mini has its flaws, the kid playing Danny annoys the ever-loving shit out of me, but I’m not usually a nitpicker and can ignore most of them. I wouldn’t recommend this as a person’s first exposure to The Shining, that will always be the book. But it’s a good watch with Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay turning in top-notch performances.
Actually I’m going to commit heresy and say Weber did a better job than Nicholson in the role of Jack Torrance. That’s right, I said it—what the hell are you going to do about it?
The Shining (stylized as Stephen King's The Shining) is a three-part television miniseries based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. Directed by Mick Garris from King's teleplay, the series was first aired in 1997.
Jack Torrance's alcoholism and explosive temper have cost him his teaching job at Stovington, a respectable prep school. He is also on the verge of losing his family, after attacking his young son Danny in a drunken rage just a year earlier. Horrified by what he has become, Jack tells his wife Wendy that should he ever start drinking again, he will leave them one way or another, implying that he would rather commit suicide than continue living as an alcoholic.
Now, nursing a life of sobriety and pulling in work as a writer, Jack and his family take on the job of looking after the Overlook Hotel, a large colonial building in a picturesque valley in the Colorado Rockies. Hoping to succeed and move on as a writer, Jack is happy to take the job as it will provide desperately needed funds and the time to complete his first play.
Upon entering the Overlook and meeting its head cook, Dick Hallorann, Danny discovers that his psychic powers grant him a form of telepathy. Hallorann tells Danny that he too "shines", and that Danny can contact him telepathically whenever he needs help.
It gradually becomes apparent that the hotel's ghosts are more than figurative and far from peaceful. There is a force within the building that seems determined to use Danny for an unknown, possibly sinister purpose. This force manifests itself with flickering lamps and spectral voices and eventually a full-on masked ball from the Overlook's past.
Danny is the first to fully notice the darker character of the hotel, having experienced visions and warnings that foreshadow what he and his parents will encounter over the winter. Jack's character becomes progressively darker, first by scolding Danny for violating his rules that he was to stay out of the guest rooms, then eventually returning to his drunken self (the ghosts supplying an open bar for Jack prior to their ball).
In order to achieve its goal, the hotel takes over the person dearest to Danny: his father. Halloran, who had been contacted telepathically by Danny, travels from Florida to Colorado only to be attacked by Jack with a croquet mallet and left for dead. Danny telepathically communicates with his father, who finally breaks free of the ghosts' grip, then realizes the boiler has been neglected. Danny, Wendy, and Halloran (who had only been stunned by the attack) escape to safety as Jack runs to the boiler room to sacrifice himself by allowing the boiler to explode and destroy the Overlook. 10 years later, Danny graduates from high school (we see that Tony is Danny's adult self) with his mother and Halloran present at his ceremony, as well as seeing the ghost of his father being proud of him.
Back in Colorado, the Overlook is being rebuilt as a resort for the summer, as the ghosts of the original hotel start to wait for more potential victims.
So why is The Shining my all-time favorite scary movie?
It still scares me. I am one hundred percent serious, even after thirty-one years and I am sure after forty viewing’s—the damn flick still makes my heart flutter and fills my tummy with ice water. I still watch it every fall, late at night, and with all of the lights turned off.
Alright Boils and Ghouls that’s it, all ten of my favorite scary (non zombie movies) from bottom to top. This was fun to write and has encouraged me to do more top ten lists, not sure what the next one will be but it’s definitely going to happen.
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