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Why the Bear Man Scene in ‘The Shining’ is So Unnerving

Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"
Warner Bros.

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Why the Bear Man Scene in ‘The Shining’ is So Unnerving

The film’s biggest mystery.

There are many reasons why Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is considered one of the most influential horror movies of all time. From the sinister musical scoring to the casts’ class acts, the film has all the components for a great horror movie. But one of the film’s most unforgettable elements has to be the haunting visuals of the film. With scenes that show an elevator gushing out blood or creepy twins that greet you at the end of a hallway, it’s not hard to see that the visuals of the film are enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat. But there was always one particular scene in the movie that left me with an unsettling feeling: the bear man scene.

This scene is during the most climatic part of the movie. Wendy Torrance, (played by Shelly Duvall) frantically roams the halls of the Overlook Hotel looking for her son Danny while her husband, Jack Torrence ( played by Jack Nicholson) goes on an axe rampage. She clutches a knife and slowly ascends up stairs. What she sees when she gets there is a disturbing image of a man in a bear costume performing fellatio on a man in a tuxedo. From across the hall, they casually look up at her. This imagery in itself is enough to unsettle some people. The shot passes by within 13 seconds and is never referenced again which raises many unanswered questions. Who are these people?  Why the bear costume? And what is the meaning? To some, the scene may seem insignificant and almost forgettable especially in the midst of Jack’s murderous rampage. But it is the mystery and strangeness of it all that makes it so terrifying.

In Stephen King’s original novel, which the film was adapted from, the scene was given more context. In the novel’s story, one of the hotel’s former owners has a homosexual relationship with a party guest in a dog costume. However, in Kubrick’s adaptation, this context was missing which left many viewers questioning what they were looking at and why at that moment. The scene seemed almost accidental but knowing Stanley Kubrick, every shot that made it to the final cut was necessary. This makes the scene even more baffling and the unknown even more frightening. Although only 13 seconds, this scene was an eerie moment that is enough to disturb viewers and keep them questioning even 40 years after the film has been released.

Watch the scene below and let us know what you think the scariest scene in “The Shining” is.

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