Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
The Shining is The Evil Dead
Paging Room 237: I got yer fancy explanation right here.
So there's a movie coming out on Friday called The Evil Dead. It's an updated remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 cult horror classic by the same name. And next Friday, there's a film coming out called Room 237. It's an exploration of the many, many theories concerning the meaning of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining. Coincidence? I don't think so. Just for starters, let's look at the opening three shots of the two films. In each case, The Shining is first, The Evil Dead second.
Begin with a tracking shot moving over water.
Then cut to a shot of a yellow car on the road.
Finally, cut to interior of car:
Oh, and where are they going? In both cases, an isolated and deserted living space.
Do I have your attention? No? Fine. Let's consider just one of the Shining theories: that it's all about the Native American genocide. First piece of evidence in that claim? Ullman's line about the Overlook being built on an old Indian burial ground. Now, there is no mention of an Indian burial ground in Evil Dead, but there is little doubt about bad things coming up out of the ground:
A reach, right? Wrong. Horror Movie News tells us that director Raimi's first venture into horror filmmaking was a short entitled Within the Woods. The idea was to make the short and then use it to raise funds for a feature. The scheme worked. The initial idea was to make a feature length version of Within the Woods, but over time, the story morphed into...The Evil Dead. Take it away, Horror Movie News:
In 1978, Sam Raimi created a movie for $1,600 called Within the Woods. The thirty-minute film starred Evil Dead actors Ellen Sandweiss and Bruce Campbell and was created to sell investors on the idea of Evil Dead.
The story begins with Bruce and Ellen going on a picnic together. While walking towards the field where they are going to have the picnic, Bruce tells Ellen that the place they are staying "used to be part of an old Indian burial ground" and it was "very sacred and holy." She nervously asks him if it was cursed, but Bruce assures her that it will be fine because according to Bruce, "you're only cursed by the evil spirits if you violate the graves of the dead" and that they were only going to have a picnic.
Bruce mistakenly digs up an old cross and an Indian ceremonial dagger, presumably belonging to a medicine man. An evil force awakens and causes Bruce to become possessed, turning him into a zombie-like creature. Ellen and the rest of the friends must band together to try and survive being massacred.
Well now. Indian burial grounds. "An evil force awakens, causing Bruce to become possessed." Sound familiar?
Does it get better? You betcha. You know who wrote the novel that served as source material for The Shining? Stephen King, who famously did not much care for the liberties that Kubrick's film took with his book. But you know what film Stephen King called "one of the most ferociously original films of the year" after seeing it at Cannes in 1982? The Evil Dead. The plot thickens.
Of course, the fact that both films make prominent use of an axe might not mean anything. But it's worth noting.
Yeah, definitely worth noting.
Also, in both films, a woman suddenly goes from being lovely and attractive to hideous and terrifying.
Of course, the woman is cursed because the place is cursed. The place is so cursed that it bleeds.
A parting shot. Both films end with a zoom shot on the protagonist, a protagonist who is shown to be a victim of the overwhelming evil present in the place:
I'll stop for the moment, though I'm not done with this yet. It's too much fun. And in case you're thinking that all it means is Sam Raimi is a talented thief of Kubrick, consider: The Shining was released on May 23, 1980. Filming on Evil Dead was completed on January 27 of that same year.