Aside from creating some of the finest films of all time including 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick also lent his hand to the horror genre, making one the scariest films ever made in The Shining. Starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, the story of Jack Torrance and the haunted mystery of the Overlook hotel has become a staple of the horror genre.
Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, the author was famously opposed to Stanley Kubrick’s vision, despite it being considered a great of the genre, telling Deadline, “I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it…I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much”.
Set in the Colorado Rockies, the tale itself is an atmospheric chiller following the descent into madness of Jack (Nicholson) who becomes engulfed by an evil, violent presence, influencing his temper toward his wife and psychic son. Littered with secrets and careful details that suggest a wider, more intricate mystery, Stanley Kubrick was careful in crafting a timeless film that would long-captivate audiences.
Whilst the film’s conclusion leaves multiple unanswered questions, Stanley Kubrick revealed the meaning behind the ending in a rare interview with filmmaker Jun’ichi Yao. Making a behind-the-scenes look at the paranormal experiences that occurred on the set of The Shining, Yao asked if the director could explain his stance on the film’s climax. As Kubrick explains, “It’s supposed to suggest a kind of evil reincarnation cycle, where he [Jack] is part of the hotel’s history, just as in the men’s room, he’s talking to the former caretaker [Grady], the ghost of the former caretaker, who says to him, ‘you are the caretaker; you’ve always been the caretaker, I should know I’ve always been here’”.
This was never the original ending to the film, however, with test audiences initially rejecting the film in 1980 due to its needless complexity. To remedy this, the confusing ending had to be changed, turning into the conclusion that we all know today. The original, alternate ending would have been pretty extraordinary if it had ever been released, seeing what became of Jack’s family after he froze to death in the maze of the hotel.
Cutting to Jack’s wife, Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and his son, Danny, in the hotel’s reception area, the manager explains that a thorough search has been undertaken of the grounds though nothing suspicious has been found. Insisting that the family return to the safety of LA whilst they await answers to their ordeal, the manager turns to throw a tennis ball to Danny, and in a strange twist, the ball turns out to be the same one rolled to him earlier in the film.
Puzzling and confusing, it’s no surprise that this ending was put to one side, even if it would have made for a truly shocking conclusion. Take a look at the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic below.