The Shining (1980)

As a kid, The Shining made an impression on me not so much because it was a creepy, nightmare-inducing trip (which it was), but because Scatman Crothers ended up with an axe in the chest. It was an early prototype for the now-cliched black character death in modern horror films (not to mention the mystical darkie stereotype). It’s particularly striking because in Stephen King’s book, Crothers’ character, Hallorann, doesn’t die at all; in fact, he saves the day.

As great as the movie is, it feels like Kubrick (or the powers that be) needed to “up the horror ante” and make Jack (Nicholson) more menacing. So instead of a croquet mallet, we get an axe. Or rather, Hallorann gets the axe. Frankly, I can understand that the moviemakers might’ve felt that Jack needed to kill someone in order to establish his willingness to do so; otherwise, he might look like either a wuss or an incompetent buffoon. But in hindsight, the Shining legacy has proven to be costly. I mean, if a film as accomplished as this can off the kindly old black guy so coldly, what’s stopping every other inferior wannabe movie from “pulling a Hollarann”? How many black people must die? By my estimation, 1,258.

“You sicken me.”
“Shit, did I pack my axe-proof vest?”
“I hope they keep the peach cobbler warm for me…”
“Wait! I’m Hong Kong Phooey!”


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