Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a cinematic masterpiece and often considered one of the greatest horror movies of all-time. The chilling ending is superb, yet bleak. It turns out that the grave conclusion could have been even darker.
Executive producer Jan Harlan and screenwriter Diane Johnson, who worked on the script with Kubrick, gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly and revealed that there were several alternate endings that the
Spoiler alert! In case you haven’t seen this classic film that came out 37 years ago and was based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name.
The movie ends with Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, frozen in the snow after failing to murder his wife and son. Then it cuts to an old black and white photo of a group of people at a ball inside the Overlook Hotel. In that picture is Jack motherfucking Torrance, from a goddamn time warp.
Kubrick, who was known for being a perfectionist or pain in the ass with OCD, had a number of suggested endings for the 1980 film. Many of the draft endings were rejected according to Harlan and Johnson. Kubrick was not a fan of the book’s ending, which saw the hotel burned to the ground with Jack still inside.
In the book, nobody gets killed except Jack. And Kubrick really thought somebody should get killed — because it was a horror movie. So we weighed the dramatic possibilities of killing off various characters and did different treatments. We actually talked it over in detail the possibility of having different people getting killed.
“The ending was changed almost entirely because Kubrick found it a cliché to just blow everything up,” Johnson said. “He thought there might be something else that would be metaphorically and visually more interesting.”
Instead, Kubrick wanted to focus on the fear that Jack’s son Danny had of his father:
Danny’s relationship with his father was the thing that most interested Kubrick. He was emotionally involved with the point of view of a little boy who is afraid of his father. I remember Kubrick saying that visually he could imagine a small yellow chalk outline on the floor like that they put around the bodies of victims. And Kubrick liked that image. But he was too tender-hearted for that ending and thought it would be too terrible to do …
Another ending features Jack’s wife Wendy doing the honors:
In one of the treatments — which has leaked online — Wendy kills Jack in self-defense in the third act. Then Hallorann arrives, and ALSO gets possessed by the hotel and becomes the finale’s surprise “big bad.” It was an intriguing twist that the murderous figure the audience is anticipating the whole movie was not really his father, but rather the hero the audience assumed was coming to the rescue.
What if Scatman Crothers, who played Dick Hallorann, also got possessed by the Overlook Hotel:
That’s right. We always had the powers of the hotel in mind. So the hotel would have been warping Hallorann’s mind for quite a long time. It was an attractive idea that Hallorran is good [throughout the film] then he gets there and is possessed by the hotel into a monster surrogate for Jack.
So what’s your favorite ending?