The Shining has inspired many parodies over the years, but The Chickening may be the most audacious – and hilarious – of them all.
Perhaps the indicator that Stephen King had “arrived” as a full-fledged phenomenon was when Stanley Kubrick – known for his long shoots and keen eye for aesthetic perfection – expressed interest in adapting the author’s third novel, The Shining.
What followed was an interesting paradox: Kubrick’s film was embraced by mainstream critics and horror fans, and has since ascended to a stature of precious royalty among most cinephiles. It stands impressively at #63 on the IMDb Top 250, and carries an 84% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But King, who is famously hands-off when it comes to adaptations of his work, was dissatisfied with what Kubrick conjured. There is a small niche of horror fan (myself included) who agree that the director drained the humanity and tragedy from the author’s text. What remained was pretty to look at, but emotionally distant.
In 1997, Mick Garris helmed a Shining miniseries adaptation scripted by King himself. While that version now suffers from some poorly-aged CGI, the emotional core remains intact. Whereas Jack Nicholson was on his “autopilot crazy” mode in Kubrick’s film, Steven Weber showed genuine range in capturing the tragic arc of Jack Torrance.
Each iteration of this tale – from the novel to Kubrick’s film to the miniseries – is its own unique experience. And, as it has wound its way into the fabric of popular culture over the years, has become a much-parodied work of art. Perhaps The Simpsons did it best with their Halloween segment, “The Shinning.”
But then there’s The Chickening, a 5-minute short that played before Green Room at the Toronto International Film Festival. Carrying a wildly divisive 2.6/5 average over on Letterboxd, this absurdist take on Kubrick’s film is as surreal in its audacity as it is in its beyond-the-stratosphere sense of humor.
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Based on many of the reviews on Letterboxd, I once again appear to be in the minority. If the creators of Metalocalypse (or any other Adult Swim series) tried their hand at a Shining parody, the result would probably be Nicholson taking over a fried-chicken business with his hapless family. I give directors Nick DenBoer and Davy Force points for creativity.
If you want to see Nicholson in a chicken costume, a green-faced (and possibly extraterrestrial) Scatman Crothers, the Grady girls doing a hip-hop routine, and a mustachioed Danny Lloyd complaining about his mother’s sandwich-making ability, you may sync with the rhythm of this.
One of those things that’s better experienced than described, The Chickening is a one-of-a-kind parody…which some may be thankful for.
Let us know if you love or hate The Chickening in the comments.