I love the scene in The Shining when Jack Torrance at his absolute craziest is outside the door where his wife and son are hiding. Right before he slams his axe into the door and before the iconic line “Here’s Johnny” is spoken, he plays the role of the Big Bad Wolf: “Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in. Not by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin? Well then I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.” He is about to murder his family in a terrible fashion, and his big terrifying taunt is a line from a classic children’s story. It’s a freakish manifestation of fatherly behavior, calling upon a classic bedtime story to chill you to the bone in a film drenched in father-son psychosis.
The Shining begs for this level of minute theorycrafting and analysis. It is packed to the brim with weird inconsistencies, impossible machinations, and bizarre references. At one point during the film, Jack reads a magazine in a hotel lobby, and if you look closely, it’s an issue of Playgirl, a pornographic magazine. Exploring the minutiae of the film and its various themes is like exploring the labyrinth of hedges just outside the Overlook Hotel. The search for meaning in art is itself engaging and inherently playful.