Pop Off: The best in horror
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 23:09
What is the best horror film ever made? What is Jack Nicholson’s best film? What is the best Stephen King adaptation? For most people, the answer to at least one of these questions would be “The Shining.” I would say it’s the answer to all three. But what is surprising is that when “The Shining” was first released in 1980, it was not considered the masterpiece it is today. It received mixed to negative reviews, and two Razzie nominations, including Stanley Kubrick for Worst Director. It both puzzles and amazes me that in less than 30 years, a film went from being a two-star misfire to a genre-defining classic. It’s so rare for a single critic to change their stance on anything, let alone a good portion of the film community.
While “The Shining” isn’t the only instance of a film’s reputation turning 180 degrees, it is certainly the best known. That said, I began to look at recent films to see if any of them could be the next “Shining.” First off, I think in order for a film to be worthy of reconsideration, it has to be attached to a big name director, and one whose films are valued for artistic innovation more than entertainment. Stanley Kubrick’s filmography included “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Dr. Strangelove,” often called two of the greatest films ever made. It also has to have received some positive critical reception, at least 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
One film that came to mind was Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain.” Aronofsky is commended for making films that deal with deep human insecurity; see “Pi” and “Black Swan.” “The Fountain” dealt with mortality but was dismissed as clunky and overly melodramatic. Aronofsky himself said he believed the film’s subject matter was the reason for the negative reaction, stating the film was released “smack in the middle of Paris Hilton time” and the superficial western culture was uncomfortable with a film about accepting death. While I doubt critics would dislike a film for its premise, I do hope Aronofsky is right. After all, I thought “The Fountain” was a deeply moving and visually striking work of genius.
Another one was Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” Anderson’s films often walk a tightrope balancing comedy and drama, and “The Life Aquatic” was his riskiest picture, with an enormous cast and a lead character that brought new depth to the word “complex.” Critics dismissed it as a mess that never really finds itself, and believed Anderson’s quirky direction had gone overboard. I thought the film needed to make a mess of itself in order for the third act to succeed as much as it does.
The obvious flaw with the above thoughts is that those are two movies I personally like. I needed to look at films that I could have potentially been wrong about. Honestly, I couldn’t find any. I am a very stubborn critic and the only film I have ever gone negative to positive on was “Waking Life,” and that was acclaimed to begin with.
My final and I think best guess goes to Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.” Von Trier’s films scream art house and always contain heavy drama and themes. “Antichrist” is a film about a couple subjected to the horrors of nature while living in the woods. It contains strong religious symbolism, graphic drama and a heavily eerie atmosphere. Actually, it looks pretty similar to “The Shining,” so it seems like a perfect fit. The only problem is, now I am really tempted to watch it.