Why Kill Dick Halloran?

Following on from my last post, this is a small musing on why Kubrick made the changes he did in filming The Shining. I will specifically focus on the ending so once again, there will be spoilers.

A basic recap of differences – Wendy leaves the apartment and is then brutally attacked by Jack. She is not attacked in the film. Jack is using a roque mallet as a weapon rather than an axe. Dick Halloran is also attacked with the roque mallet but he does not die. Danny is chased by Jack through the hotel into a dead end, but manages to appeal to what is left of his father and escape. In the film Jack chases Danny into the freezing maze and dies there, rather than being blown up by the boulder. Dick, in the book, gets Danny and Wendy out of the hotel and drives them to safety.

As I stated in my previous post, I think the family dynamic is the strongest part of the book and something that is really lacking in the film. From the first scene with all three of them, Jack’s irritation with them is almost physical. He cannot have the moment of redemption book Jack has at the end because we as an audience never sensed that he really loves his family. I had tears in my eyes reading Jack and Danny’s final scene, because it is so full of love and loss. Jack and Danny’s final scene in the book as a frantic dash through the snow in the maze. I suppose the icy maze is a more visually arresting scene, and evidently Kubrick needed Jack to die while the hotel survived for his final scene where we close in on the photograph from 1921 with Jack at the front. That says to me that Jack is now part of the Overlook, he has been absorbed into the fabric of the hotel and has indeed now always been there. It becomes a open creepy ending rather than the love conquers all explosion at the end. So I kind of understand why that decision was made.

But why does Dick Halloran die? What is the necessity? Perhaps Kubrick wanted Wendy and Danny to escape by themselves, although given his take on Wendy (a simple and amiable creature overawed by Jack’s personality as opposed to the much more three dimensional character in the book) that seems unlikely to me. Perhaps he wanted to juxtapose the brief moment of hope that comes with the roar of the snowmobile with the shattering as an axe is driven into his chest. Perhaps. But neither of those explanations are quite good enough. There is a very powerful moment in the book just before Dick drives Wendy and Danny away from the Overlook when the hotel creeps into his head and tries to convince him to kill them. I think it’s a shame that isn’t included, although I think generally that the hotel’s influence over Jack is emphasised without showing the more general insidious creep into their lives.

I do understand that a book has the advantage of being able to take you into thoughts and motivations and different points of view, and I also understand that the film is an interpretation of the book. Furthermore, I do think The Shining is an outstanding film. But I also think that Kubrick could have improved it further and given it more emotional pull from the material available. Essentially there is no good reason for Dick Halloran to die.


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