Celebration of Wickedness Day 17: OVERLOOK HOTEL

I’m a writer. I have these fantasies of crafting masterpieces of haunting depth, full of magnetic characters and taut, driven plotlines, all by the light of a roaring fire in a lakeside cabin somewhere deep in the Pacific Northwest forest. I also have fantasies of a masked killer coming into that same fireside retreat, slicing me into chili and wiping his mouth with my pages.

But I digress.

As writers, we all have these ideal writing environments that exist only in our heads, these utopian places that would allow us to escape the real world and focus exclusively on our craft. So I can understand Jack Torrance’s rationale for choosing to manage the Overlook Hotel in the scenic Rocky Mountains. Makes sense, right?

Makes perfect sense until you add in a dyslexic, telepathic boy with an imaginary playmate named Tony, a haunted hotel, an Indian burial ground, a snowstorm that locks everybody in, and Olive Oyl. Throw in Jack Nicholson’s crazy ass and you have a recipe for disaster.

You guys know this story: Jack Torrance (Nicholson) moves his family to Boulder to become the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. The hotel comes with a fully stocked kitchen, a CB radio, and a creepy Black dude. And it comes with its requisite red flags: while walking through the premises, Jack is told that the previous caretaker murdered his entire family. RED FLAG. His son starts having visions of twin girls and blood, is running around yelling “Redrum!” and talking to his finger. RED FLAG. Jack himself sees and has full-blown conversations with people WHO ARE NOT THERE! RED FLAG. Until he finally snaps, we get the typewritten page of “All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy” and suddenly he’s chasing his wife through the hotel and chopping down doors only to get locked out in the snow and freezes to death. Oh yeah, spoiler alert…

Red flags aside, I have two problems with the Overlook Hotel: first, it’s real. Like the Amityville Horror House. It’s real. I’ve actually seen it. No, I have not stayed in it (and you already know this, man!) but I did pass it on the freeway and, frankly, that’s close enough. Second, the entire story strikes too close to home for me. I’m a writer. I work from home. There are days I actually don’t go outside. I can understand the steady decline of your mental capacity— I’m not saying I’m chasing people around with axes (and “It’s Jaaaaayyyyy Lenoooooo!” doesn’t have the same sinister ring, does it?) but Jack Torrance makes sense to me.

Really, what makes the Overlook Hotel so incredible is its inherent ability to bring out the true shades of people. We saw Danny Torrance find his shining powers; we saw Jack lose his mind; we saw Dick Halloran give his life for a little crazy kid. All of them realized their true selves in the walls of the Overlook and none of them were the same. Maybe that’s villainy; maybe that’s just a mirror. At any rate, it’s my letter O.

And tomorrow, they’re heeeree! That’s right, boys and girls, come into the light, there is peace and serenity in the light—Poltergeist is next!