Despite all the plaudits Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic receives, The Shining isn't scary. It has all the trappings of a horror movie, to be sure: foreboding music, ghostly characters, and good old-fashioned murder. Do not be fooled by this. A deeper look at the film reveals The Shining is a comedy and, in fact, fits right in with the dark tone of other Stanley Kubrick comedies.
In many ways, The Shining can be viewed as a parody of horror films. But that’s not the only thing that places the film on the robust list of comedies you thought were horror movies. There are portions of the film that are outright, laugh-out-loud funny. There is little doubt these sections were purposely played for laughs by Kubrick.
There's no shortage of theories about Stanley Kubrick movies and or interest surrounding the making of The Shining in particular. Take a look at the evidence, re-watch the movie, then decide for yourself.
There is never any doubt Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a maniac. He just barely holds in his insanity during his job interview at the beginning of the film. This did not go unnoticed by Stephen King, author of the novel on which the film is based.
Straight away, you can see the film is operating on the level of parody. Rather than being a film about what drives a man to such depths of insanity that he kills his family (something truly terrifying), it’s about a cartoonishly crazy person working himself up to finally kill his family (more funny than terrifying).
The only character to die during the runtime of the film besides Hallorann is Jack Torrance, after he is outsmarted in a hedge maze by his five-year-old son. Lost in the hedge in the dead of winter, Jack freezes to death. The image of Jack’s frozen corpse the next morning isn’t so much a grizzly vision of death by nature’s cruel hand as a potential punch line to a sketch comedy bit.
What movie featuring a man in a bear costume with a flap on the back revealing his bare ass could be classified as anything but a comedy? And what if the man in the bear costume is found giving oral pleasure to a well-dressed fellow? And what if this image is shown in the midst of the climax to the film? There is no way anyone ever would shoot such footage and think , “This is perfect for my horror film that is definitely in no way a comedy.”
The most well known and oft-quoted line from The Shining has Jack channeling the opening of The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. The fact that the film’s most famous moment calls to mind the biggest comedy show of its day reinforces the notion that the film is a self-aware comedy, not a blood-chilling horror film. If Jack reciting “The Three Little Pigs” in blustery fashion immediately before his ax work didn't tip Kubrick’s hand, “Here’s Johnny” certainly does.