The Big Clue Everyone Missed Early In The Shining

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The Big Clue Everyone Missed Early In The Shining
Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 cinematic masterpiece “The Shining” only seems to get better with age. The groundbreaking horror film is celebrated today much more than it was when it originally debuted in theaters to mixed reviews and just north of $45 million in ticket sales, via Box Office Mojo. Somehow, that was considered “meh” for a project of that caliber at the time. Currently, however, it sits at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and has become one of the most iconic and influential movies of all time.

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Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd as a family isolated in a haunted hotel for the winter, Kubrick’s tale of Jack Torrance’s (Nicholson) descent into madness was more inspired by than based on the source novel penned by fright master Stephen King. This was — and still is — problematic for some viewers, including King himself, who wasn’t a fan of Kubrick’s version of the story. But viewed objectively in its own right, the director’s vision is a brilliant work of art, as legions of devoted cinephiles will attest.

One of the most enduring legacies of “The Shining” has been all of the clever and intricate details Kubrick wove into the fabric of the film. From visual clues to allegories to cracks in the perceived reality, the director has created a mountain of mysterious layers for eager audiences to dig through, which they’ve been doing for decades in an attempt to unlock all of the hidden secrets.

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Even after multiple viewings, you are likely to miss many of the intentionally constructed nuances that make everything even twistier than the creepy hedge maze. There’s even an early breadcrumb that foreshadows one of the most shocking moments in the movie. 

The red bear signals redrum in The Shining

The Big Clue Everyone Missed Early In The Shining
Warner Bros.

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The teddy bear is so easy to miss that only the most hawk-eyed viewer will spot it without looking for it. Early in the film, as Jack Torrance begins to show signs of losing his grip on reality, he is seen in the main hallway with a few of his son Danny’s (Danny Lloyd) toys strewn about in the background, including the infamous Big Wheel tricycle, which is the likeliest thing to catch your eye besides Jack. Yet also briefly visible is a small teddy bear in a (blood-colored?) red outfit, lying on the floor on its back. It’s more than just an eerie coincidence that Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) will end up lying in about that exact spot covered in blood after Jack assaults him with an axe later as the film’s events unfold.

The attack on Hallorann is much more than just a terrifying jump scare, though it certainly is that. This also represents one of the most monumental differences between Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and Stephen King’s original book. In King’s story, not only does this never happen, but Hallorann survives the entire ordeal. In fact, the only character to die in the novel is Jack himself. By adding the axe attack, Kubrick actually turns Jack all the way into a murderer.

Why Kubrick made such a dramatic decision is entirely debatable, but it stands to reason that audiences could not possibly have seen it coming, even if they read the book before seeing the movie. Unless, of course, they happened to notice an odd, meticulously placed teddy bear early on in “The Shining.”

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