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David Cronenberg Says Stanley Kubrick Didn't Understand Horror And That 'The Shining' Is Not "A Great Film"

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist November 4, 2013 at 10:20AM

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 his novel sequel to his horror classic "Doctor Sleep"—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.
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The Shining David Cronenberg

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. 

This article is related to: The Shining, David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars


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