The level of complexity, meticulous attention to detail, and extreme depth in The Shining make it one of the best films ever made. And I deliberately didn't say one of the best horror films, because it's way too good to be narrowed down to genre.
Kubrick was a notorious perfectionist. In all of his movies, things aren't left to chance. Clues to a bigger picture, or a deeper meaning, aren't accidentally misplaced. Just look at 2001: A Space Odyssey. You could write a thesis on the meaning of it and still have plenty more to say.
Plus, any excuse to throw in a clip of some of the finest acting you'll ever see from Jack Nicholson is welcome by me.
Of all of the legendary director's films, The Shining tends to leave people wanting to understand more. Whereas A Space Odyssey was openly abstract, The Shining appears to conform to the structure of what we'd expect from a typical horror, until we're left with more questions than answers.
In a quest to uncover these answers, there have been a wide range of conspiracy theories surrounding the movie since its release in 1980. In fact, there's been so much speculation Room 237, an entire documentary examining its meaning, was made in 2012.
Below, I'll take a look at some of the craziest theories on the meaning of the film, as well as its hidden messages.
Let's start with the most conceivable, saving the most outlandish until last. I want to ease you in gently...
1. Metaphor for CIA Mind-Control
This theory has gained traction based on an out of place poster in one of the scenes with the creepy, creepy twins. (Note to self: to avoid highlighted circles looking like levitating hula-hoops, make the lines a bit clearer...)
As you can see in the image above, the ski poster has the word "Monarch" underneath it. That in itself isn't interesting, however what is interesting is that this was an alleged code name of Project MKUltra.
What is Project MKUltra? It's a CIA mind control program, designed to discover effective means of interrogation and torture to force confessions out of people. Eerie. Of course, rather than actually depicting events, the narrative is a metaphor for the process of someone slowly and painfully losing their mind.
2. The Hotel Is Hell
This pivotal scene depicting a deal with the Devil is when Jack, a recovering alcoholic, asks for one drink on credit at the ghost bar. The bartender, Lloyd, could be Satan, and Jack is exchanging a drink (and his submission to alcoholism) in exchange for his soul.
This also leads to another similar theory...
3. Jack Is the Devil
The film ends with Kubrick being an absolute tease. We think we have a vague understanding of what the film is about, then we see the above photo.
Although the photograph leaves us guessing, one thing is disturbingly obvious – Jack's posture is almost identical to the Tarot card for Baphomet (Satan).
4. It's All a Nightmare
"Oooo, and then they woke up and it was all a dream." Yeah, it IS one of the biggest copouts in any fictional work ever, but still, it does fit.
The layout of the hotel is completely nonsensical, as are all of the events that happen. Much like dreams, the hotel is a labyrinth which leads to nowhere. Not to mention all the trippy hallucinations, such as the bath lady and all the ghosts.
Plus, Jack basically predicts what is about to happen:
"I dreamed that I, that I killed you and Danny. But I didn't just kill ya. I cut you up in little pieces. Oh my God. I must be losing my mind."
5. 'Frozen' Is a Disney Remake of 'The Shining'
Let's leave the world of logic behind, and start with the most unbelievable theories.
Blogger MKHammer puts across a very, very convincing theory that Frozen is actually a Disney adaptation of the movie. Initially, this seems like a load of crap. However, the more comparisons you look at, the more it falls into place.
Not only do the characters share uncanny similarities, the actual plot is strikingly similar. I'm buying it.
6. Kubrick's Apology for Faking the Moon Landing
And finally, one for TRUE conspiracy theorists. Although this one has done the rounds a couple of times over the years, it's still definitely worth mentioning.
The theory goes like this – following Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the American Government hired him to fake the moon landings. But Stanley felt bad about this. He felt bad about deceiving the entire world. And Stanley wanted to make amends.
So, naturally, he placed a sh*tload of clues into this movie as a means of apologizing. For example, the room 237 is said to be a reference to the distance between the Earth and the Moon (237,000 miles). Danny (pictured above) wears an Apollo 11 sweater.