Why The Shining’s Wendy Torrance Is The Underrated Last Girl

Among the famous Final Girls of Horror, Wendy, who survived Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, is usually overlooked, despite her bravery.


The Final Girl has, in some ways, become as iconic as the slasher villains that populate the horror genre. Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, Sidney Prescott…those who survived the monstrous reign of terror are usually ranked among the most legendary heroines of 1980s cinema, including to some extent even Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor. Yet among the surviving 1980s horror classics, one Final Girl is often overlooked, mocked, and spoken of with derision and disrespect if mentioned at all: Wendy Torrance Shelley Duvall, the last (adult) survivor of the 1980 cult horror film, Stanley Kubrick Radiation.


Radiation is based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. The film is a departure from the book in both cast and focus, being more of a visual, visceral horror than the slower psychological drama of the novel. Wendy is the mother of the psychic child Danny and the wife of recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson); the family heads to the remote, snowy Overlook Hotel to give Jack one last chance to spend the winter as an innkeeper. Trapped in the snow, the haunted hotel slowly affects everyone until Jack tries to kill his family, leaving Wendy to save her son and escape.

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Why Wendy is the underrated final girl

Wendy Torrance with her baseball bat in The Shining

Wendy is not the last girl in the original novel; in the book, Caretaker Halloran survives and helps save Wendy and Danny in the final act. However, Halloran does not survive It shines movie. Danny survives with Wendy, but since, for example, Danny and Lindsey both survive Michael Meyers with Laurie Strode in Halloween, it’s clear that being the only person alive to survive a monster is not a prerequisite to becoming a Final Girl. Status is less about being the sole survivor (many characters survive Scream with Sidney, for another example), but about having to face and escape from the monster in the climax.

So Wendy Torrance meets all the requirements of a Final Girl. She faces and survives the monster in the climax of the story, even protecting another (Danny) in the process. She suffers as she is terrorized by both Jack and the ghosts of the haunted hotel, through a chillingly realistic series of traumas and horrific images in one of the most intense and terrifying films ever made. Real Fear and Anxiety from Shelley Duvall It shines the performance was in many ways a product of what Duvall endured in real life at the hands of the film’s director, giving her performance even more terrifying weight as she conveys the fear of the Overlook Hotel to the audience.

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Why Wendy doesn’t deserve the hate she gets

Wendy talking on the phone in The Shining

Wendy’s ordeal in Radiation is even more excruciating because he is not fighting a strange monster, a creepy inhuman being that he can easily get rid of. She is forced to fight and potentially kill her own husband, destroying her family life and ending the man she loves in order to survive and save her son. Even worse than Sidney Prescott having to kill her boyfriend ScreamWendy must face a monstrous version of her spouse in a showdown trapped in the snow and deal with some aspects of horror that may sound all too real to audience members: a loving family member turned into a terrifying monster.

However, Wendy isn’t usually treated with the love and respect that most classic Final Girls are — quite the opposite. She almost always makes lists of the most hated and most boring women in horror. She wasn’t even awarded the title of Final Girl; she is treated with so little respect; in the eyes of fans, she clearly doesn’t deserve to be a true Final Girl, usually because she’s considered boring. But anger doesn’t disqualify a character from being a strong Final Girl, a survivor of a horror movie, and a victim of a monster that stands tall and fights back. And for that reason, Wendy Torrance has become horror’s most underrated Final Girl.

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