Completely Unreliable Assholes

In a movie filled with some truly great moments, this inane exchange between Halloran and Larry might be where you can see/hear Kubrick in The Shining most clearly. Plus, the office details remind me of the Console Living Room exhibit here at UMW.

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5 Responses to Completely Unreliable Assholes

  1. Mike Caulfield says:

    I’m curious why you say that exactly. Is it the perfect humor of it?

    The thing I noticed, re-watching this with my family a year or so back, was how much this and other scenes set you up for a different sort of ending that involves Halloran as a force. It’s almost comic what a sudden death this thread of the movie has, after this phone call, scenes of driving up, the walk into the hotel, and then bam, axe to the chest.

    The expectation of the viewer (at least from my point of view) is that he’s either

    * On time and helps save them
    * On time and helps save them but dies
    * Late and ends up the guy who finds them in the coda.

    But of course, sadly no… he’s completely irrelevant…. What’s up with that? Do you know?

    • Reverend says:

      Mike,
      Your reading on the Halloran thread is right on. He is a setup with no payoff, although he seems to be at his most meaningful/useful early on when sitting down with Danny to explain WTF shining means. But Halloran becomes increasingly comic as the film goes on. Just think about his room in Florida and those brilliant paintings.

      What I was referring to in this scene was actually a bit different. What strikes me most about Larry and Halloran here is how routinized and prosaic the conversation is, it’s almost as if we are finally seeing Jack for what he is, a completely unreliable asshole. The break down of the family unit seen from their conversation is not that interesting at all. It’s as if, for a moment, the fable-like narrative of the occult happenings in the Overlook is pierced for a moment here. They’re just caretakers who have messed up, the fact that Halloran shines and is reading Danny’s mind telepathically 2500 miles away shouldn’t be forgotten—but it’s nowhere in this scene. It’s the moment where the magical realism much of the narrative is premised on is absent, and the way these two talk to each other—especially Larry’s completely disaffected tone—is what makes it so awesome for me.

  2. Mike Caulfield says:

    I remember the paintings, and both Nicole and I being like WTF is up with these paintings? I kind of thought it might be a contrast with the hotel, where everything on the walls is haunted with history and time and meaning, and Halloran is chilling with a 70s vibe.

    • Reverend says:

      In a Duke Nukem recreation of The Shining, there is a Easter Egg that sends you into Halloran’s Florida digs from the Overlook, it is a stroke of genius. Interestingly enough, it is the only abode besides the Torrance’s (their aprtment and then the Overlook) that we see. The paintings are featured prominently:

      That mod of Dukenukem may be one of the most awesome things ever made.

  3. everus says:

    A search of how many times Kubrick used variations of the line “completely unreliable asshole(s)” brought me here. Anyway, I’d like to briefly add my thoughts regarding Halloran during my visit.

    I agree that his character seems to be reduced to comic relief and a surprising, ignoble, end. But even after his expository role in the kitchen with Danny, his return to the Overlook not only shows the reach of the supernatural connection he has with Danny (as mentioned above); it also shows that there is an element of good bound up in the Overlook; that Jack is actually capable of killing someone (while escalating the narrative); and most importantly, he brings a Snowcat, which enables Danny and Wendy’s escape. Also agree that the conversation with Larry adds a moment of grounding, in contrast to the cabin feverish tone of the hotel, love that scene…

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