This Villain was Headlined on September 2019.
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| ~ Jack Torrance appears after chopping down the door that Wendy was hiding behind - one of the most famous movie quotes of all time. |
Jonathan "Johnny" Daniel Edward "Jack" Torrance is the villainous protagonist of Stephen King's 1977 horror novel The Shining as well as its 1980 film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick and the 1997 TV miniseries adaptation. He is also the posthumous overarching antagonist of the 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep and its 2019 film adaptation.
He was a writer and a recovering alcoholic who lived with his wife Wendy and his son Danny, the latter of which wielded a special psychic power known as "the Shining".
Jack was put in charge of the Overlook Hotel, and during the time there, was driven into madness by a demon that possessed the entire Hotel and attempted to kill his own family.
In The Shining, he was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who also played Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men, Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, The Joker in the 1989 Batman film, Jimmy Hoffa in the 1992 film Hoffa, and Frank Costello in the 2006 film The Departed. In the miniseries, he was portrayed by Steven Weber. In Doctor Sleep, he was portrayed by Henry Thomas.
Jack was a writer who accepted the job of winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, despite being informed of the building's grisly past and reputation as a cursed place (which he shrugged off as a superstition) and he took his wife Wendy and son Danny with him to the hotel, and thought that the solitude of the place would help inspire him in his writing as well.
However, Jack soon descended into madness that was never fully explained; depending on the view of the audience he could have either suffered an intense mental breakdown or he was possessed by the spirits of the Overlook Hotel from the beginning. Whatever truly happened to the unfortunate Jack was never fully explained. Yet, the demonic possession was further implied by all the ghosts that haunted the hotel — especially the ghosts of two young girls, who frequently appeared to Danny as well. The ghosts were apparently attracted by the boy's power and seemingly tried to drag him into the Underworld.
At any rate, Jack soon lost his mind completely, and became increasingly abusive toward Wendy and Danny while holding conversations with a ghostly Bartender (who appeared to be the ghost of the previous caretaker) that apparently only he could see; he also had a traumatic experience with a ghastly phantom in a hotel room, and ultimately descended into a murderous psychosis in which he tried to kill his wife and son with an axe (much as the previous caretaker had done years previously).
However, Jack was outsmarted by his family after a fearsome manhunt, and ultimately left to freeze to death in the giant maze outside the hotel after Wendy and Danny escaped the hotel.
The film ends featuring an old photograph of a ball at the hotel from July 4, 1921, that shows Jack at the event.
The Shining (1997 TV Series)
The TV series of the Shining followed directly to the novel as well as the roles of the characters and Jack. Author Stephen King was disappointed with the previous adaptation so he made the TV series to make it more loyal than the Kubrick version. This version featured him forgetting to check the hotel's gas generators, causing them to explode and kill him. Years later, as Danny is graduating high school, Jack's redeemed spirit returns to him to tell him how proud he is.
Differences Between the Novel and the 1980 Film
In the original novel, it was made quite clear that Jack slowly fell under the influence of the unspeakable evil force that appeared to be the Overlook Hotel itself, or the demonic entity that took complete control of it and commanded its ghostly population. The ghost of the former bartender often appeared to Jack, and explained that he murdered his family upon the hotel's request and served as the spokesperson between Jack and the hotel, which/who tried to hire Jack as well and make him do the same.
At the end of the story, when Jack was completely controlled by the demonic entity, the narration no longer called him "Jack," but as "the creature" or "the monster." It was clearly stated that the unfortunate Jack underwent an awful metamorphosis and was no longer human. "Jack" attacked his family with a rogue mallet instead of his iconic ax and was destroyed alongside the hotel itself, which Danny, Wendy and Halloran (the cook who worked in the hotel, who also wielded the Shining) managed to destroy it by detonating the heating system.
Jack's possession was fully proven during the final confrontation between Danny and "the creature", when the boy managed to awake the spirit of his father with his Shining. Jack then bid a moving farewell to Danny and let him escape.
In the 1980 film, Jack is almost a threat and unsympathetic hero right from the very start. He has a creepy and unsettling demeanor even when he was simply applying for the job as caretaker in Stuart Ullman's office. It is also revealed early on in the film that he broke Danny's arm when he was younger, and Jack acts as though it never happened. He shows his first sign of going insane about a month after his application, when he verbally abuses his wife Wendy for "distracting" him from his work.
Not long after, Danny has a communication with him about their experiences in the hotel. Danny uses his Shining ability to tell that Jack wants to hurt both him and his mother, implying that Jack has already gone insane. He has one of his more sympathetic moments in the film when he was a nightmare about killing Wendy and Danny, before waking up, screaming and crying about it. However, when he sees Danny's neck injury that he received from the old woman in Room 237, he suffers an almost casual indifference to it. In the novel, Jack is immediately horrified and tries to find out who did his to his son.
He then speaks to Lloyd the Bartender, where he tells him that he is not happy with both his family and his life, and claims that he injured Danny's arm three years ago, whereas Wendy claimed that it was only five months ago. This implies that this was not the first or last time that Jack injured Danny. Wendy then immediately tells him about the woman in Room 237. He insults her and calls her crazy, before she makes herself serious. He then checks the room where he finds a beautiful woman in the bathtub. With a sinister grin on his face, he lustfully embraces the woman as she seduces him and they start kissing, blatantly cheating on his wife, before discovering that the beautiful woman is actually the ghost of a hideously deformed old lady. In shock, he leaves the room.
When he gets back, he lies to his wife about not seeing anyone in the room, in order to cover up his tracks, claiming that Danny injured himself. When she asks for them to leave the hotel, he berates and insults her, claiming that he absolutely refuses to leave the hotel before storming off in a rage. When he gets to the barroom, it is now filled with ghosts before reuniting with Lloyd and asking for a drink. He starts exploring the place before a waiter accidentally spills lemonade all over him. The waiter apologizes and takes Jack to the bathroom to clean him up.
There, they have a friendly conversation, before Jack recognizes him as Charles/Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker, and reminds him of what he did. Grady then claims that he "corrected" his family and that Jack needs to "correct" his. Jack is then seduced by the hotel, and unlike the novel where he was being brainwashed against his will by the spirits, he willingly agrees to kill his family.
After Jack attempts to murder Wendy, she locks him in the pantry for her and her son's safety. He is quickly let out though by the spirits, and gleefully attempts to kill his wife and son with an axe. When Dick Holloran arrives to help, Jack murders him with the axe. In the novel, Jack severely injured Dick with his roque mallet, but Dick managed to pull through.
The final difference is that Jack almost had a redemption arc in the book, where he momentarily gains control over himself, hugs Danny and tells his son that he loves him and gives him, Wendy and Dick time to escape. He then kills himself to prevent the spirits from repossessing him, and allows the hotel to explode. In the film, he maniacally and gleefully chases Danny with his axe through the snowy maze until Danny outsmarts him by leaving a false trail, allowing him and his mother to escape, while Jack freezes to death in the snow, clearly having gone way too far to redeem himself. As he stumbles around in the maze, all Jack can do is scream and yell incomprehensible gibberish, showing just how far his mental state has degraded.
The Shining (1980)
- The scene where Jack broke down the door and yelled: "Heeeeere's Johnny!" as he did so was unscripted, yet kept in the film.
- The catchphrase "Heeeeere's Johnny!" at the time of the film's release had a doubly iconic meaning, being the introduction to the long-running host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson. It even became a popular Internet meme.
- In the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, it was revealed that during his days as an English professor, Jack Torrance had an affair with a student and she had a daughter named Lucy. Lucy would go on to have a daughter of her own named Abra who possessed a more potent version of the Shining. That would make Jack Abra's grandfather, and Danny Lucy's half-brother (and therefore Abra's uncle). His ghost would appear briefly to assist his granddaughter in the climax.
- The demon that had control of the Overlook Hotel was the overarching antagonist because had it not been for the demon, Jack would not have turned evil in the first place.
- Jack starts out clean-shaven, but as he descends into madness, he grows a five-o-clock shadow to reflect this.
- It is believed that Jack starts wearing his iconic red jacket once he reaches the climax of his insanity.
- He makes a small cameo appearance on the screen of the drive-in cinema before the screen gets destroyed by the F-5 tornado in the 1996 film, Twister.
- Jack makes a brief cameo appearance in The Shining level in the 2018 film Ready Player One, chasing Aech. However, Jack is seen backwards as his face isn't seen at all.
- Interestingly, Jack Nicholson was actually approached to appear in Ready Player One, possibly reprising the role of Jack for his cameo appearance. However, Nicholson desisted as he has retired from acting since the release of How Do You Know in 2010.
- Jack was featured along with other horror icons in the Halloween sale promotion for Vivziepop's Hazbin Hotel.
- Similarly to how Danny Lloyd, who played the young Danny Torrance in The Shining, appeared in Doctor Sleep in a cameo appearance, Jack Nicholson was actually considered to appear in a cameo appearance in Doctor Sleep. However, like in the case of his offered Ready Player One cameo, Nicholson declined due to being retired. Director Mike Flanagan ultimately felt that it was better that Nicholson didn't return, as he would not have been able to reprise the role of Jack due to his age and the audiences would have felt dissatisfied with just a cameo appearance of him. Nevertheless, Nicholson approved and liked the film.