Even thought it’s been nearly forty years since it was released, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made, if not arguably the best (it has some serious competition from The Exorcist in my humble opinion). But when it was first released back in 1980, it wasn’t the mega-hit that Warner Brothers was hoping for. It performed decently, but audiences used to slasher flicks of the day were expecting something more straightforward, probably more like King’s original novel. The movie was even nominated for several Razzie awards, which seems beyond absurd today. Nevertheless, today most fans and critics agree that The Shining is indeed a masterpiece.
In an effort to make the film more palatable to mainstream audiences back in the day, many changes were made to the film while in production, especially to the ending. Many different endings were bandied about by Kubrick and the production team before they finally settled on the conclusion that we got: Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance frozen in the snow after failing to kill his family. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the film’s producer Jan Harlan and screenwriter Diane Johnson went into details about some of them, including one which was super dark, and one which would have given audiences a surprise twist ending.
In King’s original novel, no one innocent gets killed, and Wendy, Danny and the kindly cook, Dick Hallorann get away to safety. Kubrick wisely surmised that since this is a horror film, someone innocent has got to die. At one point, Little Danny was actually considered, and screenwriter Diane Johnson said “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.” I’d agree: that was a very smart omission.
In another discussed finale, Johnson confirms that there was once going to be quite a twist ending, worthy of M. Night Shyamalan. In one version, Wendy manages to kill Jack in the third act. Then Hallorann arrives seemingly to rescue them, and then he gets possessed by the hotel too, and becomes the finale’s surprise villain. It’s unclear if the newly possessed Hallorann then kills the rest of the Torrance family, but man… that would have been another truly bleak ending.
The final ending deviated from King’s book in several ways, by replacing the living topiary animals with a hedge maze, and electing not to blow up the hotel at the end. But right up until release, there was an epilogue to the film, which assures us that Wendy and Danny got away and told their harrowing story to the Overlook Hotel’s manager, Stuart Ullman. Ullman then gives Danny the mysterious ball that rolled his way in the hotel, suggesting that he too is a ghost in service of the Overlook. Wait, what? The film’s preview screening for critics had that scene, but realizing it made everything more confusing, Kubrick then ordered it removed from prints distributed around the country at the last minute.
For more details on scenes and moments omitted from The Shining by Kubrick, be sure to check out the full article at Entertainment Weekly.
What do you think of these alternate ending to the classic film? Would it have made the movie better or worse? Let us know what you think down below in the comments.
Images: Warner Brothers