December 25, 2015

Merry Kubesmas! Here's a Creepy New Discovery in the 'The Shining'

Hey, Merry Christmas, guys! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, then hey, Merry TGIF, am I right? I am.

It is Friday (at least right now, while I'm writing this). Anyway, recently a purported "confession" has been making the rounds, wherein Stanley Kubrick, about whom I have written 7,000 posts for this site, is purported to admit to "directing," hence, faking, the Moon Landing way back in 1969. 

Now, this theory has been around for awhile (and is probably due to the fact that 2001 depicted outer space with such fidelity, and no CGI), and even until recently people were still puzzling over how Kubrick managed to pull off those antigravity shots where the astronauts are depicted as jogging upside down, which is, I am going to bet, where Lionel Ritchie got the inspiration for the video for "Dancing on the Ceiling". (And that's a conspiracy theory I'll stand by. Not really. Anyway.)

I won't dignify this new "confession" video, featuring a Kubrick who looks more like a mall Santa than the man himself "coming clean" over the tremendous guilt he felt. Which, no. This theory has been covered and been around for years, and was one of the threads in the famous Shining doc Room 237, a mashup of every theory on the film ever, and a lot of those theories are kinda reaching, if I may editorialize. 

So I know what you're thinking (just like Danny!): What more could possibly be said about this movie? Moreover, what could possibly be said by me about this movie? Well, friend, thanks for the questions, and the answer is, some stuff. Specifically, a really intensely creepy audio effect that is almost subliminal and will scare the pants off you when you first hear it. (I listened through headphones and yikes.) 

It turns out that during the first 48 minutes of the film, at several key moments, especially in the first scenes of the movie (and then reappearing once more), there is, mixed in with the audio, and fit in between lines of dialogue that are portentous or will later effect the plot, there is, on the soundtrack, a voice, a propulsive breathy whisper, a ghostly voice, and it says, according to this video (though another website, which discovered the same phenomenon independently, has a slightly different pronunciation), one word: "Shone" (the other pronunciation is "Sha.") It first occurs in the opening scene, right after the credits, as Jack walks through the lobby towards Ullman's office and passes over the spot where, 2 hours later, he will take an ax to Scatman Crothers.

The intensely disturbing sound repeats several times during the interview in Ullman's office, and then after multiple additional instances, disappears for a good long while until 48 minutes in, when Wendy radios the Ranger Station. Then, it disappears from the film and never returns. But after Wendy calls the Ranger Station, well, it gets pretty real. The sound is like a breadcrumb trail that you don't even know is there. (Which would make it useless as a trail in the fairy tale sense, but it's Christmas, and what do you want from me?) 

All of this demands to know something, though, which is, um, why? I am aware that a lot of people are sick to death of all the attention lavished on the cinematic house of mirrors that is The Shining, claiming, among other things, that most of what people think are easter eggs are actually just continuity errors. But, honestly, Kubrick was not known for his carelessness, and I, personally, having watched his filmography several times over, strongly doubt that he was careless in what he was doing.

This mind-searingly amazing site by artist and writer Juli Kearns talks in depth about the sound, too (though, caveat, the video and site are unrelated, and came to their conclusions separately; this is stressed by Kearns, and also bears mentioning because it shows that this phenomenon has been noticed by more than one person and isn't just some apophenic cloud-gazing). The site also breaks down, shot by shot by shot, frame by frame, the entire movie, and man, it is really worth looking at, if you are like me, and maybe you are. In which case, you're pretty cool, congrats. And rather than theories about faked moon landing apologies, this analysis by the writer and artist Juli Kearns hits upon a crucial element in all of Kubrick's filmmaking:

The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line.

In other words, there is really no other motive in the trickery that Kubrick employs in all of his films, though probably most foregrounded in the The Shining, which is, after all, a supernatural thriller. But he must be up to something, because that movie, a horror movie that has about thirty seconds of "spooky" stuff, that is so well-lit, never fails to leave an impression of disturbance, of something being not quite right. And by going through the film frame by frame, the amazing (I mean, seriously) analysis shows the ridiculous care Kubrick took to line up elements of his film so that even adjacent shots, when laid on top of each other, comment on the previous.

From composition to music to incidentals, the bottom line is: Stanley Kubrick was, like one of his heroes, Alfred Hitchcock, a master of filmmaking, a filmmaker who used absolutely every element at his disposal to painstakingly construct a work of art that, like Kearns' above quote demonstrates, is not like most films, where the plot and the visuals are singing the same note. Here, the surface is, like a magician's misdirection, playing a different tune, fooling you into paying attention to what he wants you to, while the images subtly play with your head and leave residues that resonate long after the end of the movie.

Okay. Good talk. I love Kubrick, and you might, or you might not, but this is certainly a fascinating discovery, and when you think about it, there really isn't a need for all of these conspiracy theories. The fact is, the man's entire career was a giant sleight-of-hand performance, and that it keeps on giving (because it's Christmas, see, and gifts and stuff) 16 years after the director's death is truly amazing.

I hope you take some time today to get seriously freaked out and/or learn something. Or get annoyed with all this Kubrick love. But if you don't love Kubrick, why are you reading this? Is it because I've tricked you into doing so with my...um....no, it's not. It's probably because everyone loves reading stuff on the internet about stuff they love, and stuff they don't love, but hey guys, at the end of the day, it's movies we love. And you. We love you, too. 

So, in conclusion, have a great day, whatever you do, and Shone on, you crazy diamonds!* 

*(I'm sorry. I'm better than that. Well not really, but a little.)     

Your Comment

6 Comments

Sorry... but found your way of writing this article made it extremely hard to get through it, without constantly taking a step back and re-read the last sentence or two.
I get that you are excited, but maybe you shouldn't be writing while excited and instead let it sink in and then attack it...

December 26, 2015 at 4:49AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
1147

'Kubesmas' is a crime against both Kubrick and Jesus.

December 31, 2015 at 12:10PM

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The human mind is apparently "hard-wired" to find patterns, often in places where patterns don't exist. In this particular case, the only discovery I can say I believe is the repeated sound. I'd be hard-pressed to say it's "shone," but it's probably just a sound.

As for Jack looking at the camera, I'd say that was just incidental. People tend to look away from "whatever" as they mentally ponder something (it's been verified through psychological testing), so I'd say he's just pondering what was said. As for the oblique references to mental and psychic communication, that seems to be a stretch. And for a major league stretch, the counting of frame and time intervals is the sign of someone with a bit too much time on their hands.

A strange sound repeated throughout the movie? Yes. All the other stuff. No.

December 31, 2015 at 3:14PM, Edited December 31, 3:15PM

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I feel The Shining is one of the most over-analyzed films ever. Certainly a movie that plays with puzzles and mazes as motifs, but I think this can be taken far beyond the intentions of even as meticulous filmmaker as Kubrick.

The Shining has become the backward masking of film.

This sound effect could easily be be explained as the same room tone being used repeatedly and looped. And this sound could be nothing more than someone shuffling.

December 31, 2015 at 9:24PM

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Robert Goodrich
Producer, Writer, Director and Editor
81

If this were true -it would make the film, and Kubrick, indescribably horrible at their purpose (which would really be a feet considering Kubrick's nonchalance with completely manipulating original content to his whimsy).

January 1, 2016 at 11:19PM

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When you accidentally record a distinguishable sound while getting room tone.

Now everyone knows the editor used the same room tone for different scenes. How embarrassing.

January 14, 2016 at 4:54PM

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Nicholas
180