As of the conclusion of New Year’s Day, the holidays are officially over. Seeing as that’s the case, I know it’s odd to start with a horror film that some consider a Christmas movie. The one I am referring to is Stanely Kurbrick’s The Shining. It has so many interpretations it’s insane but for this article, I’ll only be focusing on the ones that relate to the holiday season. The main ones I’ve seen are that The Shining is a subtle Christmas movie or that it’s actually a Winter Solstice movie.
The latter was thought up by James Rolfe of Cinemassacre. He has a video explaining it in detail if you want to know more. For now, between the two theories, I’m more inclined to say his has more validity. As for the Christmas one, I’m sorry. I just don’t see it and I’ve tried watching the movie with a Christmas mentality in mind. The main arguments I’ve seen have to do with the movie technically being a family film and certain background details as well as color schemes. Before we continue, I think it’s important to discuss how much Christmas has to be in a movie for it to be considered a Christmas movie.
Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve and has numerous references to the holiday throughout the film and yet some people say it’s not a holiday flick. My short response to that is, that they’re wrong. In my view, for something to be considered a Christmas movie, it has to a. Be stated to take place on the holiday or at least near it and b. Tie it to the plot in some meaningful way. Take It’s A Wonderful Life for example.
Yes, Clarence is being told the story of George’s life on Christmas Eve, but I’d say most of the scenes in that movie don’t relate to the holiday. Despite this, it’s a holiday staple for many, including myself. I’d argue that Edward Scissorhands has about as many scenes taking place around Christmas time and yet there’s debate on whether or not it’s a holiday movie. I think it is. What about Spider-Man No Way Home?
A lot of the story does take place during the holiday season and there are Christmas references in it. However, they are few and far in between, and yet(and spoilers by the way) there’s something about seeing the final scene with Peter, now forgotten by everyone he knows, swinging with the Christmas tree in the background, specifically during the holiday season, that resonates with me. It’s one of those films that just manages to qualify as being a holiday movie to me.
Can the same thing be said about The Shining? First, we need to see how many Christmassy (As an aside, I didn’t know that was an actual word) scenes it has.
The most notable ones I’ve seen people argue would qualify are when Jack is trapped in the pantry with those bags that say “Holly” and the scene where he is talking to Grady’s ghost which had a green and red color scheme. I’ve also seen people say that Christmas movies have to have snow. The Shining does, but I never got why that has to be a qualifier.
By that logic, you can’t have any Christmas movie taking place in a warm climate or somewhere that usually doesn’t get snow in winter. Anyway, with all this said, it’s a pretty open-and-shut case that The Shining is a Christmas movie, right? Sorry to say, several things are going against this. For one thing, despite it being a family film, there aren’t many family scenes. Jack is cooped up trying to get his writing done and I don’t recall seeing Danny and Wendy spending a lot of time together.
Speaking of whom, I feel like if there were any events of that movie taking place during the season, she would have been putting in the effort to get more into the spirit for Danny. Granted, I think the book did have a Christmas scene, but it’s been a while since I read it and that’s another topic. As for the movie, I know Wendy is more meek. However, she still presumably cares about Danny and wants him to be happy. That’s why I find it odd from a Christmas perspective that there aren’t at least any decorations in the background that she put up.
Before you say, the hotel may not have had any, Jack was shown going by a room in which a party occurring was indicated. Parties tend to have decorations which means the hotel most likely would also have ones relating to Christmas. Going back to the, Christmas movies need to have snow, thing for a moment, in the same way, I don’t think that has to be the case, I also don’t think having snow is an automatic qualifier. There are over two months of winter after the holidays when snow could occur. The timeline of the movie is also the biggest strike for why I don’t consider it a Christmas movie. The title card shows the Torrances arriving at The Overlook in November.
It’s not clear how long they spend there. It could have been a month. Then again, it could have also been several. The final justification I’ve seen people latch onto is that the sweaters the Torrances wear are Christmasy. I say” latch onto” because that seems like a stretch. They’re surrounded by cold.
Of course, they’re going to have on clothes meant to keep them warm. That would be like me calling Cool Hand Luke an Easter movie because it has eggs in it. Without any clear indicator that the events of The Shining took place around Christmas or even in December, for that matter, I can’t label this a holiday film. Case closed, right? The Shining isn’t a Christmas movie to me.
Well, I’m about to contradict myself. Despite all the reasons I’ve laid out, I still consider this a holiday movie in a very distant way. In my view, The Shining is less a film to watch during the holidays and more one to watch right after they end. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole tone of the movie matches how I feel right after the holidays are over. Decorations come down except for the few houses that decide to keep their lights up for a little longer.
Then we have to face down two months of bleak cold. Something similar can be said about what The Torrances go through. As I’ve pointed out, nobody is seen doing anything that relates to the holiday. The family has to deal with frigid temperatures that left them almost entirely isolated and was a contributing factor to Jack’s descent into insanity. Above all else, the most prominent way I connect the post-holiday sensation and The Shining is the uncertainty.
We make our resolutions at the end of the year and yet we step into the new one with cautious optimism due to not knowing what it has in store for us. At the end of The Shining, Danny and Wendy manage to escape The Overlook, but there’s still that sense of dreariness and dread that accompanies them as they are driving through the snow. It’s unclear what the future holds for them, at least until Doctor Sleep. That movie didn’t come out until almost forty years later, though. Before that, it was impossible to know what happened to the surviving characters.
I suppose when it comes to the future the best we can do is either shooting in the dark or making educated guesses. Regardless, I hope this new year goes well for us all, and happy reading.