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The Shining, Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Warner Bros., May 23, 1980 (US)

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, based on the novel by Stephen King

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers

We rode pendulums to the top of the world. A rush of wind slashed our faces as we rocketed into the unknown. The swingset could not contain us. Higher, higher, higher still! The beginning of summer was a slingshot, catapulting kids into swimming pools and fishing holes of carefree bliss. We had just finished the 6th grade. Real big shots. I just got back from seeing my first Rated R movie on the big screen. The Shining. Predictably, it scared the living shit out of me. (Officially, the first Rated R movie I ever saw was Dressed to Kill, on videotape, also frightfully memorable and suspenseful as we snuck downstairs in the middle of the night in order to watch it without our parents finding out.) But seeing The Shining on the big screen was simply everything. What a tripped out, psychotic world to enter into at such an inappropriate age. I shrank in my seat at the enormity of it all. My parents’ stern refusal to let me see Rated R movies had been the source of unending conflict. The way I saw it, the onset of pimples and body hair should have granted me certain rights. My parents didn’t agree. The stalemate caused me to search for other alternatives. I knew the time had come to test the waters and see just how far I could stretch the boundaries, tiptoeing into the little white lies of an adult world.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson): [As he is trying to kill his wife, Wendy] Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you?

I laugh about it now. Straight from the ghoulish Overlook Hotel to a playground swingset—Poplar Park—all in a day’s work. Maybe (just maybe) Mom and Dad knew best, and yes, perhaps I had no business seeing a movie like that. But I was a desperate, pubescent mess. The Black Stallion couldn’t do it for me anymore. I had to break free. And now, there was no going back. The thought of returning home that night was perhaps more frightening than the film itself, as if my dad was Scatman Crothers or my home could shine. My parents would see right through me.

Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers): Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t.

Indeed, there are moments from which you can never return. The mechanical, slobbery first kiss. The giddy excitement of that first Rated R (XXX) movie. The end of the world shock and despair over being dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse, flushed away like a dead goldfish. The first time the world falls off its axis in a gin-soaked frenzy. Sex. SEX. Sex. Choking on a cigarette and pondering just how cool you’ve become. The first time you stand in front of a coffin and see a body embalmed. For me, The Shining is forever linked with these rites of passage. And although I am not proud of what it took to make it happen, I’m still glad I saw the film when I did, how I did, and as young as I was (Danny Boy!). It made it all the more frightening, relating to Danny and his plight, which is what I still find to be the scariest aspect of the film: The scenes where young Danny is alone, exposed and helplessly vulnerable in the world of terror that begins to reveal itself around him.

Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd): Redrum. Redrum. Redrum.

I slid down in the theater seat (from which I probably couldn’t even touch the floor) as Danny rode his Big Wheel through the Overlook Hotel’s echoing, ghost-filled hallways. Those scenes were intense. Really intense. Maybe I wasn’t such a big shot after all. The film overpowered me and I was desperate to escape akin to Danny running for his life into a snow-covered maze, chased by an axe-wielding maniac.

Jack: Danny, I’m coming!

This wasn’t a group of teenagers at camp. It was a child (Danny/me) in a place that no child should be.

Grady daughters (Lisa and Louise Burns): Hello Danny. Come and play with us. Come and play with us, Danny. Forever … and ever … and ever.

This is what I had been missing? It was huge. I was as small as a popcorn kernel in that theater and the screen was as big as the memory that still envelops me. This was the shit. There was no turning back.