David Cronenberg Says Stanley Kubrick Didn't Understand Horror And That 'The Shining' Is Not "A Great Film"
For whatever reason, Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" has been a bit more scrutinized than usual in 2013. The documentary "Room 237" dredged up all sorts of fanciful, conspiratorial theories about the director's supposedly "true" intentions behind the film, while Stephen King—promoting "Doctor Sleep," the sequel to his horror classic —took another swipe at the 1980 adaptation, calling it "misogynistic" among other things. And now, David Cronenberg has weighed in with his thoughts on Kubrick's chiller, and you might be surprised to learn he's not a fan.
Speaking with The Toronto Star about the TIFF exhibit "Cronenberg: Evolutions," the director posited that not only are his films more personal than Kubrick, the filmmaker didn't really understand the horror genre at all. “I think I’m a more intimate and personal filmmaker than Kubrick ever was,” Cronenberg shared. “That’s why I find 'The Shining' not to be a great film. I don’t think he understood the (horror) genre. I don’t think he understood what he was doing. There were some striking images in the book and he got that, but I don’t think he really felt it."
The criticism of Kubrick's films being emotionally cold or distant isn't new, but we'd have to say, this might be the first time we've heard someone argue that he was an intentionally populist filmmaker. “In a weird way, although he’s revered as a high-level cinematic artist, I think he was much more commercial-minded and was looking for stuff that would click and that he could get financed," Cronenberg opined. "I think he was very obsessed with that, to an extent that I’m not. Or that Bergman or Fellini were.”
We'd like to live in a world where Kubrick's films are seen as big commercial prospects, but we'll let you all debate that below. As for Cronenberg, his next very non-commercial, satirical movie about Hollywood starring John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, and Sarah Gadon is in post and according to the paper it "may" premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next year.
That's strange because I never really thought of The Shining as a horror film. To me, it always more like a physiological thriller.
I think it is a great film. I do not think it is a horror film. I'd place it as a dark drama/Oedipus film.
I love The Shining. I have never enjoyed a Cronenberg film.
His last film, Cosmopolis - I think I lasted about 10 minutes. Listening to Rpatz talk in a monotone voice for 2 hours is not my idea of fun.
"Room 237" is totally ridiculous.
Yeah, he admitted he had to cast Robert Pattinson for commercial reasons. So I don't know what the fuck he's talking about that he "doesn't worry about commercial aspects". After 2001, Kubrick had carte blance from Warner Brothers and never had to worry about financing ever again.
Somebody is jealous.
I think the longevity of "The Shining" and how it has worked its way into the popular consciousness is a testament to its greatness.
I remember not really liking The Shining when it came out, though it had a couple of good scenes. However, I can't think of a single Cronenberg movie that I like.
Is this a surprise? Stanley Kubrick always criticized his films. But, I thought 2001 was his best film.
[quote]i came out of that movie HATING it and King.
Why would you hate King? It was quite different than his novel.
King got to make his own Shining as a miniseries and it wasn't very good.
I'm not the biggest Kubrick fan, but I greatly prefer The Shining to anything by Cronenberg.
Scatman Crothers was the only good thing in "The Shining."
What does it mean to "understand" a "genre"? It means to manipulate the emotions and pacing in a conventional way. What Kubrick understood was that to be remembered, you have to do something unique which is unconventional. His movies do not fit the genres very well, and he has been rewarded - perhaps too much - for this originality. I don't know if anything Kubrick did was great art which will be watched in a hundred years. What I do know, though, is that by breaking genre boundaries he helped expand the role of cinema in life and the possibilites of filmmakers. I like some Cronenberg movies, but will "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises" really be watched twenty years from now, let alone a hundred? Will any of C's "horror movies" even be watched ten years from now? There is no reason to genuflect before the "geniuses" of the past like Kubrick, and we can thank him for not doing so. We can't, however, endorse a critical vision that hasn't produced something more substantial on its own.
I thought The Shining was an overblown mess. Blood coming out elevators?---Haha!
Old lady coming out of bath for no reason at all? HaHa!
The bar scene? WTF?
I think Tarantino also criticized Kubrick's "The Shining" a few years ago.
[quote]I don't know if anything Kubrick did was great art which will be watched in a hundred years.
I think at the very least 2001 will be seen as a major work of 20th century art. You could make a case for Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange, but its a weaker case. Barry Lyndon is also growing in stature year by year.
I've watched a few of Kubrick's films and I'm still not a fan but he's become such a sacred cow nobody can criticize him at all.
Kubrick understood horror well enough to make a film with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Tarantino's a complete hack. He has no business criticizing anyone.
Who? I've never even heard of this asshole.
Kubrick's version of THE SHINING is certainly a horror film, but he clearly approaches the material as being about a family going mad together in the context of the malignant spirits of the hotel.
There are some very effective sequences in the film, but Kubrick was never a "genre" filmmaker like Cronenberg was when he made early films like THE BROOD (which is nastily effective and disturbing), and lesser stuff like THEY CAME FROM WITHIN and RABID. So while I get what Cronenberg is saying, his point is of little consequence given that Kubrick approaches things differently.
My biggest issue with Kubrick is general is that he tends to get overly exaggerated performances from some of his actors, including Nicholson in THE SHINING.
I would agree with the statement that Kubrick is a misogynist based on his films in general.
[quote]Yeah, he admitted he had to cast Robert Pattinson for commercial reasons. So I don't know what the fuck he's talking about that he "doesn't worry about commercial aspects". After 2001, Kubrick had carte blance from Warner Brothers and never had to worry about financing ever again.
He sounds very bitter. Having to use Twilight boy to fund your projects (and Cosmopolis got some very bad reviews and was in general a complete waste of time and money) can't feel great.
The fact that The Shining still has such cultural relevance 33 years after it was released shows that it was an effective movie. Nothing Cronenberg has created has that kind of impact.
[quote]I've watched a few of Kubrick's films and I'm still not a fan but he's become such a sacred cow nobody can criticize him at all.
That's not true at all. Kubrick has ALWAYS been criticized. Maybe not as much as he's been praised, but he's always gotten critical reviews, up to an including for Eyes Wide Shut.
[quote]Tarantino's a complete hack. He has no business criticizing anyone.
You're an idiot.
[quote]Who? I've never even heard of this asshole.
You're an even bigger idiot.
It's more of a violent thriller in tone, but the supernatural aspects clearly make it a horror film.
Rob looked HOT in "Cosmopolis."
It's funny because I'm not a fan of Kubrick's, but I thought The Shining is the least tawdry, hack-ish film of a Stephen King story I've ever seen. All other films I've seen based on King stories are crappy, TV-of-the-week-level films except for the original Carrie, which I saw as a fun campfest.
Stephen King doesn't interest me and I usually see his films with friends who are fans. I just pretend I liked the film because I don't want to spoil something they like, but in my estimation, he's a crapmeister.
I loved The Shining.
I also loved The Dead Zone.
I guess I'm torn as to which one directs better movies based on Stephen King novels.
R25, I don't think "supernatural = horror". In Kubrick's version, there isn't concrete evidence that the supernatural events are actually happening in objective reality. Everything we see could be in the character's minds due to madness. The only objectively odd, unexplainable thing that happens in the film is the door to the dry goods pantry opening despite Wendy having locked it.
The titular ESP link between Danny and Scatman Crothers seemed pretty real within the film, R29.
But I hear you. It defies easy categorization.
Twihard invasion at R26.
You have to admit Rob is hot, r31. That is just objective reality.
Yes Rob is hot if you find cro-magnon foreheads and yellow teeth sexy.
Cronenberg is an established master of horror cinema so he has a right to pass judgment on Kubrick's "Shining" if anybody does.
Kubrick made "great" films. That was his thing. He made heavyweight prestige art films, and this might be part of what Cronenberg's saying--he threw away too much King to make room for Kubrick. Kubrick's "Shining" is an impressive film but when I saw it I couldn't believe that Kubrick had thrown out what was to me the most effective set piece in the novel (the hedge animals coming to life) and I was outraged that he killed off Hallorann. Having Jack freeze to death in the maze was a lousy climax in my opinion.
The most egregious thing about The Shining is that there's supposed to be so much snow on the ground that only snowmobiles can be used for travel and snow banks are high enough to reach the hotel's bathroom window, but when the kid and Jack are running around in the maze, there's only a dusting of snow on the ground.
[quote] snow banks are high enough to reach the hotel's bathroom window
It was a snow drift, not a snow bank. A snow bank is created by a snow plow. A snow drift is created when snow over a large open space is pushed by wind up against a structure or object. And there was more of a dusting on the ground, it was deep enough to create footprints.
Cronenberg and Tarantino dissing Kubrick are ants attacking a giant.
They're both talented but nowhere near Kubrick's league. I don't recall them having the balls to say this shit when Stanley Kubrick was alive.
"he clearly approaches the material as being about a family going mad together in the context of the malignant spirits of the hotel"
An isolated family going mad together is scarier than any of King's supernatural crap, or anything I've seen from Cronenberg.
[quote]An isolated family going mad together is scarier than any of King's supernatural crap,
Word! Thats why I think of it as being more like a psychological thriller than a horror film. I also see parallels to it and 2001. The isolation, the helplessness. The idea that the terror is coming from something that is not of flesh and blood.
There should have been at least a foot of snow on the ground. The characters' shoes aren't even covered by the snow. The toes of their shoes aren't even covered.
You could always count on Kubrick to play a rape scene for maximum laughs.
[quote]I couldn't believe that Kubrick had thrown out what was to me the most effective set piece in the novel (the hedge animals coming to life)
Kubrick correctly felt that the hedge animals were a silly contrivance. His goal was to focus on the disintegration of the family, which is why he hired Diane Johnson to co-write the script. Also, the hedge animals coming to life eliminates any ambiguity as to whether there are really ghosts in the hotel or if the family is going mad.
R41, the fact that you think the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange is played for laughs says more about you than Kubrick.
R43, I could buy that if it was just Nicholson's character seeing things, but the little boy sees them too well before the worst of the action starts.
More false lessons in diction from R36. Snowbanks can have any source. Stop making shit up.
R45 Webster tends to disagree.
snowbank noun A pile of snow especially along the side of a road.
R44, thats an interesting point. Its been a while since I saw the film, but from what I recall, we see very little of what Danny is supposedly seeing compared to what his father is seeing. He sees the creepy twins, but his father is seeing and talking to "people" who are in turn pushing him to kill. We know from the start that there is something not right with Danny, but what exactly it is we cant tell. It's kind of a tough call, is the madness causing the visions or are the visions causing the madness? And of course, everything is thrown in another direction with that final shot of Nicholson in the vintage photograph. I feel that's what makes the film so remarkable: a dozen people can watch it and every one come away with a different take on what is actually happening.
[quote]We know from the start that there is something not right with Danny, but what exactly it is we cant tell.
He's gots the shining.
I'm one of those people who always read the book before seeing the film. Kubrick's Shining was nothing like the book and annoyed me from start to finish.
King's works are generally only well represented by ABC miniseries. THAT version of the shining was brilliant.
Though I will give props to Delores Claiborne and Misery for not being as bad as other big screen King adaptations.
[quote]King's works are generally only well represented by ABC miniseries. THAT version of the shining was brilliant.
You have awful taste.
I get chills from start to finish watching this movie.
I've seen it at least a dozen times, and I still can't watch Jack's frozen face at the end which I find as creepy as anything in The Exorcist.
Someone on a French website described it as the Citizen Kane of the horror genre, and I would tend to agree.
[quote]Stanley Kubrick Didn't Understand Horror And That 'The Shining' Is Not "A Great Film"
Totally agree. The Shining is so fucking boring. I didn't become scared once. So not horror.
[quote]You're an even bigger idiot.
How dare youuuuuuuuu!
Why wasn't this said when Kubrick was alive?
THE SHINING is a rotten film. Everyone was disappointed when it came out.
The Shining has a 92% critics' rating and 91% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so there.
[quote]THE SHINING is a rotten film. Everyone was disappointed when it came out.
Open the Pod bay doors, HAL!
Kubrick had his off days too, and Cronenberg has made some fantastically scary movies.
I agree with him on this.
The Shining is an amazing horror film. It's probably so well remembered because it was something new. Since then there have been a lot of horror films very much like Shining. The Sixth Sense is obviously directly influenced. The Others! My favorite kind of horror, actually.
The Fly is a fun flick too, I will say.
[quote]The Shining is an amazing horror film.
It couldn't be. It doesn't contain any horror. Maybe it could pass for mystery. Maybe.
It's psychological horror.
R61, are you the same troll that bitches about American Horror Story every week? Define horror for us, please?
In other news, Newt Gingrich says Abraham Lincoln didn't understand politics and that 'The Gettysburg Address' is not a "great speech."
Thanks to Scatman, The Shining showed a realistic, grounded portrayal of telepathy. I liked that when I first saw it as a kid. It was the real world-ness of the movie - no hedges coming to life, etc. - that made it provocative.
Just like Halloween, The Shining still freaks me out a bit when I see it, the atmosphere is so isolated, eerie and ominous and the score is really creepy.
The Shining trailer done as a romantic comedy shows the importance of score to atmosphere:
[quote]are you the same troll that bitches about American Horror Story every week?
Yes, r63. Can't wait for this week's episode!
[quote]Define horror for us, please?
Being genuinely scared. Being grossed out is not horror.
r56 [quote]The Shining has a 92% critics' rating and 91% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so there.
R69 *roll eyes* ? Is that how one says, "O shit. Someone used facts to prove my claim was wrong"?
Stanley Kubrick was an odd choice of director for "The Shining." It's true he didn't know much about horror movies, but it didn't matter. "The Shining" ended up being not a horror movie, but a Stanley Kubrick movie. It was his vision, his ideas; it was all him. I didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing, but purists can argue that his film of TS was nothing much like Stephen King's novel.
I thought his version was interesting. But I didn't like the death of Dick Halloran, which did nothing for the film. And the character of Wendy was completely overhauled to the extent that she was unrecognizable from the attractive, but somewhat bitchy young woman in the novel. As played by Shelley Duvall she's a rather repugnant-looking, screeching weirdo. And of course the character of Jack, who started out troubled but normal-seeming in the book, was turned into a strange, sinister guy right from the beginning. In the movie Jack is not Stephen King's Jack, he's a creation of Jack Nicholson.
[quote]Being genuinely scared. Being grossed out is not horror.
Oh, so you have never actually seen Shining? Rest assured that people were scared by it. Genuinely.
If something is gross enough to shock you* that's also horror, but that has little to do with Shining.
*And when I say "you" here, I don't mean YOU. Your personal emotional reaction doesn't define the world for everyone.
[quote]"The Shining" ended up being not a horror movie, but a Stanley Kubrick movie.
r72 = Stanley Kubrick from the beyond.
For those who enjoy Stanley's movie, the making of The Shining, interspersed with clips.
Love Jack, and that kid is one of the best child actors ever.
I like the movie, but I don't think Jack Nicholson is very good in it. This film seems to be the beginning of his self-pleased hamminess.
" In the movie Jack is not Stephen King's Jack, he's a creation of Jack Nicholson"
Normally, I'm one of those geeks who gets all huffy when someone changes a book I like for the movie adaptation.
But in the case of Stephen King, feel free! A good filmmaker like Kubrick can definitely improve on the original.
Absolutely "The Shining" is a horror film. I first saw it on HBO when I was 9 years old. It was so disturbing (especially Danny on his Big Wheel encountering the little girls and Scat's death) . I wish I had been older before seeing it.
I'm never quite sure what I think of Kubrick. I think he was overrated, but without the negative implications that term includes.
Cronenberg's version of horror is different from those of many. I've seen horror movies where they were scary, but they were movies. Cronenberg's version of horror includes making something being so disturbing that you wish you had just not seen it.
When it comes down to it, I think Kubrick had a better handle on horror.
A little off topic, but does anyone know why the Overlook's carpet shows up in Suede's Animal Nitrate video? I first noticed it a long time ago and have searched to find what connection the song has to the film, but so far have found nothing. Things like this are not a coincidence.
The song itself is pretty gruesome. From the best I can tell, I think its about a young man who is turned on by the abuse he suffered as a child.
For me, creeped out beats grossed out in the horror category. I can be horrified by bloody torture porn or oozing secretions, but not particularly scared by it.
Was "Jaws" a horror film? The category is fluid.
R81 It is fluid. I think maybe one way to look at it is this way: Horror movies are scary but not all scary movies are horror movies. I think one of the scariest films I have ever seen was Deliverance because that shit really happens. On the other hand, stuff like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street are more like a comedy for me. They are so ridiculous and over the top, I cant help but laugh.
Horror was watching Keira Knightly unhinge her jaw in A Dangerous Method. Or Robert Pattinson trying to act.
I don't understand where Cronenberg is coming from. And after hiring these hacks to star in his boring movies who is he to judge the merits of anything?
Rob looked GREAT and totally HOT in that movie, r83. You clearly have no taste.
50 year old frau Twihard at R50.
or R84 as the case may be.
Either way, no Sparkly fans here.
Kubrick's worst is better than Cronenberg's best.
r79, I always think of Kubrick as a satirist.
A Clockwork Orange and especially Strangelove are satires.
He is a cold, big picture obsessive. The intimacy of The Shining is not something he could pull off.
I never thought of it as a horror, more of an extreme psychological thriller.
I get scared just watching those scenes of Jack Halloran driving through the snow to get to the Overlook with all those creepy tall trees around him. And the scenes with Jack chasing Danny in the maze are so scary and tense.
R67, that was awesome.
[quote]Kubrick's worst is better than Cronenberg's best.
Rob Zombie's best is David Cronenberg's worst.
[quote]i came out of that movie HATING it and King. spent the next week complaining of my wasting 2 hours of my life.
Well King hated the Kubrick film as well, which is why he wrote the TV adaptation himself. And the movie was 2½ hours not 2 BTW, so you must've napped during parts of it.
Me, I like the Kubrick's film, but it can't hold a candle to the likes of The Fly, Dead Ringers and especially Videodrome.
[quote]Me, I like the Kubrick's film, but it can't hold a candle to the likes of The Fly, Dead Ringers and especially Videodrome.
Are you kidding?
^^ NO ! ^^
[quote]^^ NO ! ^^
You're a comedian, right? You're into satire?
Kubrick knew at least as much about horror as I did about musicals.
The tv version of The Shining wasn't scary at all. Kubrick's version still holds up and is scary as hell. A simple scene like Danny playing in the hallway and that ball rolls out of nowhere to him is really well done and creepy.
Cronenberg's idea of "understanding horror" means regurgitating the usual clichés and using them in the exact same manner as every other slasher film.