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‘House Hunters’: The Overlook Hotel Edition

Jack Torrance is a troubled writer looking for solitude; Wendy Torrance is a stay-at-home mom constantly worried about her gifted son. Their budget is $6.5 million. Just like ‘The Shining,’ this probably won’t end well.

Getty Images/Warner Bros./Ringer illustration

2020’s summer blockbuster season has been put on hold because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the movies from the past that we flocked out of the sun and into air conditioning for. Welcome to The Ringer’s Return to Summer Blockbuster Season, where we’ll feature different summer classics each week.

EXT. MOUNTAINS — DAY

JACK and WENDY TORRANCE drive through the majestic Rocky Mountains in their yellow, 1973 Volkswagen Beetle as the camera glides across a sterling river. The foreboding horns and prodding strings of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s “Dies Irae” intensify, until a doorbell abruptly rings and a contrastingly bright theme intrudes—it’s the electric guitar-led opening of HGTV’s House Hunters.

All screenshots via Warner Bros.

FEMALE VOICE-OVER

Jack wants a quiet abode where he can focus on his writing. Wendy is a stay-at-home mom taking care of their son, Danny, but she has reservations of living an isolated life in the Colorado mountains. Can Jack convince Wendy to embrace the cozier side of life?

JACK TORRANCE (in cut scene)

This carpet is amazing!

FEMALE VOICE-OVER

Or will endless space, countless rooms, and a kitchen freezer that has 15 rib roasts, 30 10-pound bags of hamburger, 12 turkeys, 40 chickens, 50 sirloin steaks, two dozen pork roasts, and 20 legs of lamb make Jack a dull boy?

The doorbell rings again as the House Hunters opening plays in full. Blood begins to pour across the title screen—a shot of two twin girls briefly flashes—until a smash cut stops the murderous flow. Things proceed without comment or concern.

INT. COLORADO LOUNGE, OVERLOOK HOTEL — DAY

FEMALE VOICE-OVER

Jack is a former teacher turned hotel caretaker. Wendy has no job. Their budget is $6.5 million, and they’re also looking to get paid to live in the hotel of their choosing.

STUART ULLMAN

Welcome to the centerpiece of the Overlook. Room for days!

WENDY TORRANCE

By golly, will you look at this, Jack? You could throw a tennis ball a mile in here!

Jack appears distracted, almost entranced. His eyes drift over to a photograph hanging on the wall.

JACK TORRANCE

… Yes, dear. Quite a space, isn’t it?

WENDY TORRANCE

I’m not so sure about the color white on these walls, though.

Jack takes a deep breath. Real estate agent Stuart Ullman shoots him a furtive glance as if to say, “Your wife is an idiot. Doesn’t she understand the concept of paint?” Jack forces a smile.

JACK TORRANCE

Of course, dear. Whatever you want.

WENDY TORRANCE

Would ya mind giving me a bit of history of the place, Stuart?

Stuart pauses.

STUART ULLMAN

Well, uh, of course! Um, so, construction started in 1907, finished in 1909. The Overlook’s built on an Indian burial ground, which definitely shouldn’t concern you in any way. And, well, that’s about all you need to know! This is a quiet little place. Not a lot happens. There’s definitelybeenzeromurderhere.

WENDY TORRANCE

What was that last bit?

STUART ULLMAN

I said we get plenty of snow here.

JACK TORRANCE

Hey, Wendy, would ya look at this model of a maze they got?

STUART ULLMAN

[Laughs.] Ah yes, that’s an exact replica of the hedge maze located just across the courtyard. Beautiful, isn’t it?

JACK TORRANCE

Have those hedges ever come to life?

Stuart looks shocked.

STUART ULLMAN

Well, no. Of course not. Why the fuck would that ever happen?

JACK TORRANCE

I don’t know. I imagine some people might be into that sort of thing. Either way, I bet it’s mighty easy to get lost in there, huh?

STUART ULLMAN

[Laughs again.] Oh, yes. But in the winter there’s so much snow on the ground that you can always follow your footprints back.

JACK TORRANCE

What if someone were to wipe away the footprints?

STUART ULLMAN

Hm. I guess I never thought about that.

Wendy’s eyes dart around the corner of the great room. She seems perplexed.

WENDY TORRANCE

Now, what room does this one connect to? The lobby?

STUART ULLMAN

It’s pretty complicated. Why don’t we check out the rest of the hotel?

WENDY TORRANCE

Has anyone seen Danny?

INT. KITCHEN — DAY

SCATMAN CROTHERS guides DANNY TORRANCE through a massive kitchen as WENDY TORRANCE catches up. The walls are lined with cooking supplies; long, stainless steel tables fill the room; there are multiple stoves, stand mixers, and 24-quart pots.

WENDY TORRANCE

I definitely want stainless steel appliances. But the tables are too much for me. I need granite.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Well this is an industrial-size kitch—

Wendy’s not listening.

WENDY TORRANCE

Granite countertops were high on my want list ... The knobs on the cabinets over there are funny-looking.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Well look, lady, you can replace knobs and—

WENDY TORRANCE

I don’t think you can, no. As a person looking at a house on TV, I know knobs are nonnegotiable.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

—and besides, you don’t even have to use half the stuff in here.

WENDY TORRANCE

Who are you, by the way?

SCATMAN CROTHERS

I’m Scatman Crothers. Pleased to meet you.

WENDY TORRANCE

Isn’t your character’s name Dick Hallorann in the movie?

SCATMAN CROTHERS

It is, it is. But when you have a name like Scatman Crothers it feels like a mistake to go by anything else. Especially in a satire being published on a website.

WENDY TORRANCE

OK then, Scatman Crothers. But isn’t there usually just one real estate agent on these things?

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Well, sure. Of course. But I was sitting here in this kitchen and I was drawn to your boy here.

Wendy grasps Danny by the shoulders, growing visibly protective.

WENDY TORRANCE

You were what?

SCATMAN CROTHERS

He and I have a connection. I’m not sure I can explain it to you.

Danny raises his index finger. Wendy quickly grabs his hand to stop him.

WENDY TORRANCE

Don’t do the finger thing, honey. It’s really off-putting.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Anyways, uh, come see the pantry. The Overlook comes fully furnished and fully stocked. You can eat all winter and not have the same menu twice. Look here, this is the walk-in freezer.

WENDY TORRANCE

Does the lock on this door work well?

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Well sure! Why do you ask?

WENDY TORRANCE

No reason.

Crothers double takes, briefly confused (and slightly annoyed), before moving on.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

Now this is the storing room. This is where we keep all the dry goods and the canned goods. We got canned fruits and vegetables, canned fish and meat, hot and cold cereals, Post Toasties, Corn Flakes, Sugar Puffs, Rice Krispies, oatmeal, cream of wheat.

WENDY TORRANCE

You sure do like listing things.

SCATMAN CROTHERS

We got a dozen jugs of black molasses. We got 60 boxes of dried milk, 30 total pounds of bags of sugar. We got dried peaches, dried apricots, dried raisins, and dried prunes.

Entranced by Crothers’s never-ending list of dried goods, Wendy hasn’t realized until now that Crothers has been staring at Danny the entire time. Just … talking apricots and raisins while keeping intense eye contact with her 6-year-old son.

WENDY TORRANCE (deeply haunted now)

We’re uh … gonna go find Jack.

INT. OVERLOOK CARETAKER’S LIVING QUARTERS — DAY

JACK TORRANCE is sitting on a bed. His hair is mussed. His family has looked at so many houses by this point that he’s tired, maybe even a bit deranged. STUART ULLMAN is standing bedside, his hands buried in his leather jacket. He’s staring at the potential homebuyer. They had come into the room earlier, and when Jack sat on the bed, Stuart initially assumed he was testing it out for comfort. But it’s been 20 minutes now, and Jack hasn’t said a word.

WENDY and DANNY TORRANCE enter the room.

STUART ULLMAN

Oh, Mrs. Torrance. Boy am I glad to see you. Your husband seems to be enjoying the mattress! Fully furnished, did I mention?

WENDY TORRANCE

No, but that guy who liked my son a little too much did.

Stuart’s faux smile drains from his face.

WENDY TORRANCE

Don’t worry about Jack. He does this sometimes. If you swing a baseball bat in his general direction a couple times he snaps out of it.

STUART ULLMAN

Of course, ma’am. Of course. Shall we look at the rest of the rooms?

FEMALE VOICE-OVER

The Overlook has over 250 rooms. That’s just right for Jack, who wants a cavernous space all to himself. As for Wendy, who wants the opposite kind of home in every single way, she’s proving to be a harder sell.

WENDY TORRANCE

I don’t love this color green.

Stuart grits his teeth.

STUART ULLMAN

Well, don’t forget that paint color, you can always change.

WENDY TORRANCE

Or these sink fixtures.

STUART ULLMAN

Also changeable!

WENDY TORRANCE

This duvet cover is a little drab. And does the Overlook even have a pool?

STUART ULLMAN

A pool? … We’re in the Rocky Mountains ... This place is gonna be snowed in in a week’s time.

WENDY TORRANCE

[Sighs.] That’s too bad. A pool was very high on my checklist.

Stuart’s face grows red as beads of sweat collect on his forehead. He actually looks at the camera and raises his eyebrows. Can you believe this shit? he seems to be thinking.

STUART ULLMAN

Maybe we should move on to the next room.

In the hallway, Wendy grabs at the door handle of Room 237.

Eyes bulging, Stuart abruptly grabs her arm.

WENDY TORRANCE

Wha-huh?

STUART ULLMAN

This room is … being renovated.

WENDY TORRANCE

But look—the key’s right there in the door!

Stuart quickly yanks the key out of the hole and stuffs it into his pocket.

STUART ULLMAN

I don’t think it is.

WENDY TORRANCE

What’s wrong with Room 237?

STUART ULLMAN

[Laughs.] Absolutely nothing, ma’am. Just your standard room that you can’t ever go into. No weird old ladies in there bathing, certainly not. Like I said, definitelyzeromurderhere.

WENDY TORRANCE

Say again?

STUART ULLMAN

I said beer is like water here.

Wendy half nods, her eyes studying Stuart from the side.

STUART ULLMAN

Coors, ya know! Colorado, remember? Everything is fine. You’ll love living here.

EXT. THE OVERLOOK HOTEL ENTRANCE — DUSK

STUART ULLMAN

So what’d ya think of the Overlook? Fine place, isn’t it?

JACK TORRANCE

I loved it! Move-in ready, hallways that lead to nowhere, amazing interiors. Did ya get a look at that carpet? Such interesting shapes! I bet it’d make a really cool sound if Danny were to ever ride his Big Wheel on that carpet.

WENDY TORRANCE

But the bathrooms—I just don’t know if I can ever get used to the colors of those things!

Jack tenses up. His eyebrows arch and he drags his palms over his face as his tone grows noticeably, concerningly sterner.

JACK TORRANCE

For the last time, Wendy, there’s such a thing as PAINT!

WENDY TORRANCE

And don’t you think it’s a little too big, Jack? It feels like a ghost ship.

STUART ULLMAN

What a weirdly specific way to describe something. So full of foreshadowing.

JACK TORRANCE

It’s not empty! Why, I had a fascinating conversation with the bartender today. And the bathroom attendant!

WENDY TORRANCE & STUART ULLMAN (in unison)

Who?

JACK TORRANCE

You know—Grady. That son of a bitch. What a guy. Great parenting advice, I’ll tell ya.

Neither Wendy nor Stuart know what he’s talking about, though Stuart seems to bristle at the name “Grady.”

JACK TORRANCE

All’s I’m saying is this place would be perfect for us. Think of all the fun you and Doc will have. And all the writing I’ll be able to get done. Why, I bet I could write a thousand sentences in this place. Or at least the same sentence a thousand times.

WENDY TORRANCE (with clear hesitation)

Well … since we agree on absolutely nothing, it’s obvious that one of us is going to have to sacrifice everything for the other’s happiness.

FEMALE VOICE-OVER

Wendy finally understands how House Hunters works.

WENDY TORRANCE

OK, let’s do it.

JACK TORRANCE

You hear that, Stewie, my boy?! We’ll take it! We can’t wait to live here.

STUART ULLMAN

Well that’s great to hear. But there’s just one thing, sir …

Stuart’s face becomes serious, even menacing.

JACK TORRANCE

What’s up, Stu?

STUART ULLMAN

You’ve always lived here.

INT. COLORADO ROOM — DAY

As a blizzard rages outside, WENDY and DANNY TORRANCE sit on the floor of the Colorado Room. Wendy is gazing longingly out the window. Danny is smashing some toys together. JACK TORRANCE is nowhere to be seen.

WENDY TORRANCE

We, um, love it so far. All of the space is really amazing. I’m never lonely or fearing for my life, and Danny’s never bored—he really does love riding his Big Wheel all over, and just yesterday he was telling me about his two imaginary friends that he keeps bumping into. Kids can be so creative. He keeps getting bruises on his neck, but I guess that’s just from falling off the big wheel.

The camera cuts to a montage of Jack in the Overlook—sitting, blankly staring, standing at an empty bar, having conversations with people who aren’t there.

WENDY TORRANCE VOICE-OVER

And Jack’s loving it, too. He says he’s very busy and to never bother him, so I guess that book oughta be done any time now! The other day he told me that we absolutely can’t leave, no matter what. That’s how much he loves it.

As Wendy addresses the camera, she begins to smile so hard that tears well up in her eyes. She’s raising her eyebrows plaintively. Then, right as she is about to speak, she takes a deep breath and retreats. Behind her, Jack appears to be approaching with an ax. Danny tucks his chin into his chest and raises his finger. Wendy forcibly lowers his hand.

WENDY TORRANCE

God dammit, Danny, stop! I told you no one likes the finger thing.