It's in the car. In the car as the Torrance family drive up to the Overlook Hotel. It is already there. Jack Torrance can barely contain his contempt for his family. Even in the telephone call earlier--'Sounds like you got the job?' Wendy says--'Right,' says Jack--there is a chilling minimum of cordiality. Stanley Kubrick took Stephen King's haunted house story of demonic possession and the resilience of family love and sacrifice and turned it into something much darker, a tale about a father who despises his family. Jack doesn't so much go mad, as finally start to get things off his chest. He is the unrepressed ego, doing exactly what he wants, whether its bouncing his baseball around the foyer or attacking his family with an axe, drinking his whisky or killing a black man. The hotel isn't so much a haunted house as it is a reductio absurdum of a prosperous American home. The Torrance home we glimpse is a poky , cold and isolated apartment in an anonymous housing project. The Overlook is inflated. The kitchen is massive, offering a remarkable choice: 'you can eat here for six months and never have the same menu twice'. Corridors recreate the labyrinth. The living rooms and the games room are enormous. The family quarters are still small and claustrophobic, but they actively avoid going there. The most important part of the house for The Shining however is the bathroom. It is bizarre how often toilets are visible in the film. While Jack is in bed, there's a toilet through the open door of the bathroom. Jack's interview with Grady takes place in a place that can only be described as hell with toilets. A throbbing red colour scheme as Jack is recruited. Room 237 is also basically the bathroom and the decomposing woman is the resurrection of something that should have been flushed. If Jack had managed to get through the door, the bathroom would have been the site of Wendy's murder.
Ultimately, you almost feel sorry for Jack. As far as Axe murderers go, he is inept. He is repeatedly defeated by Wendy who is almost frighteningly weak. His final demise (outwitted by his son) is ignominious as he lurches through the snow, howling like a beast. He is ultimately the victim of his own brutal anger but also his family.
Of course, Chef Hallorann is also a victim but he is really a Snow Cat delivery service.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.