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In the ether known as cinematic history, there are some legendary stories that won't die. Be it a Munchkin hanging themselves in The Wizard Of Oz, Ronald Reagan being the original choice for the lead in Casablanca, or the ghost of a suicide victim making its way into Three Men And A Baby - stories like these some how grab onto a piece of our subconscious. It doesn't matter if they're truth or fiction, what matters is that once they take a hold, they never let go. If there were ever a monarch of films that sprout odd conspiracy theories, The Shining would definitely be a front runner. The shameful thing about it is, those theories are absolutely false.
At least, that's what executive producer Jan Harlan said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, as he was on hand at a 35th anniversary screening of Stanley Kubrick's horror classic in St. Alban's. With a film as prolific and historic as The Shining, there's obviously a lot of stories that have been told around many a cocktail hour where the film has been mentioned. One such story is the suggestion that Kubrick's work on The Shining was a cover up for a hidden message. Harlan himself has heard as many theories as we film buffs have on what that message was, and he's got his own piece to speak about just what the film ends up being. If you treasure the theories you've heard for years, then don't venture below.
People tried to think that the film should have made sense. But it didn’t. It’s a ghost film, end of story. It’s completely mysterious. When at the end you see Jack Nicholson in the photograph in 1923, you can’t ask 'How come?', because nobody can possibly have an answer. Kubrick always said, 'Never try to explain something that you don’t understand yourself.'
Surprise! The Shining, according to one of the men who helped make it, is nothing more than an effective horror story. While it's no surprise that Stanley Kubrick has been sneaky in the past with his films, it's certainly not a shock that The Shining is nothing more than a face value thriller that manages to do its job with expert precision. However, with the theories that have floated around for years in popular lore, you can't help but listen to the "true purpose" that some thing The Shining served. Everything from an "apology" for allegedly faking the 1969 moon landing, to a treatise on the mistreatment of Native Americans, and even CIA mind control have cropped up in many a deep dive into the symbology of The Shining.
So why does The Shining continue to inspire such spirited back stories with the audiences it continues to entertain 35 years later? Well, as Stanley Kubrick had pointed out and Jan Harlan reminded us, the events of the Overlook Hotel are inexplicable in such a way that the only explanation is that there is no explanation. Logic cannot pierce the veil of Delbert Grady and his pals, and the more we try to seek a logical outcome, the scarier it is when we realize we'll never know. In the case of The Shining, not knowing the ending is half of the fun. Unless you're Stephen King, in which case it probably pissed you off even more.
The Shining is available on Blu Ray and DVD, as well as in your nightmares after that Nightmare On Elm Street marathon you have planned. Though if you're interested in feeding your conspiratorial hunger, you should check out Room 237 - a documentary that explores the many theories we've mentioned above.