3. The Staircase – The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made – and one of Corner of Film’s most overrated movies of all time – and it’s been frightening audiences for over four decades. Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, The Shining‘s story of a troubled writer driven mad by a winter of isolation and tormenting his family is utterly iconic. What’s more, Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is one of the most memorable in cinematic history.
One of the most iconic scenes in The Shining is also one of its funniest, despite being intended as its most menacing. Concerned for her husband’s sanity, Wendy Torrance goes to check on him, only to discover he’s become utterly unhinged. As Jack menacingly walks towards Wendy, she retreats up the Overlook Hotel’s grand staircase. Jack pursues her, one step at a time, mocking her as she clutches a bat for protection.
It’s not overtly funny, particularly as Nicholson is terrifying in the scene, but there’s something about the sudden animation of the character and the way in which he mocks his wife that’s so uncomfortable that it becomes amusing. What’s more, the way that Wendy retreats and Jack advances so slowly contrasts the tension of the scene, making it unintentionally hilarious. The scene has since been spoofed many times, most notably in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment “The Shinning” – and it’s a rare example of something that’s as terrifying as it is funny.