“Here’s Johnny!” – If there’s one scene in The Shining that symbolizes the film, it’s Jack Nicholson hacking through a hotel door with a firefighter’s axe, after suggestively quoting the wolf from “The Three Little Pigs”. The still, as seen on the movie poster, remains an iconic image in the thriller genre, although Kubrick wasn’t the first to use this concept.
The nerve-racking sequence can be traced back to the 1921 Swedish horror silent The Phantom Carriage, where at a certain point, David Holm (portrayed by Sjöström himself) similarly breaks through a door with an axe in order to open it from the inside, where a woman is also trapped with her kids.
Whilst this parallel clearly indicates that Kubrick got some of his ideas from Sjostrom, The Phantom Carriage wraps up into an entirely different story with lots of flashbacks and special effects such as superimposition and double exposure, which were unique for its time.
Originally named Körkarlen in Swedish, the story is based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf and centers around an abusive alcoholic who is forced to reflect on his selfish misbehavior after finding out his wife had left him when he was released from prison.
The two then reunite in a Salvation Army mission, with the support of a virtuous sister named Edith Larssen, only to be shaken up again a year later when the rehabilitated husband is visited in a dream by the messenger of death, who reveals his wife’s plan of committing suicide and taking the children with her to their death.
Full of trickery and imagination, the events which seem distant from each other eventually dissolve into one more hypnotizing moral story of sin and retribution.