Critical Distance: Why THE SHINING Is a Better Horror Movie Than THE EXORCIST
The Exorcist has been a staple in the horror film genre and it has certainly left a big impression on fans in 1973 through today. However, I am here to point out that the William Friedkin film may lose some of its glory to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in 1980.
The Exorcist is a film about a young girl who becomes possessed by the Devil incarnate and enlists the help of a few hapless priests to "exorcize" this demon from her. The Shining is when Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes his family to the Overlook Hotel, looking after said hotel while a series of frightening occurrences haunts the family as the Torrance patriarch eventually succumbs to the hotel's whims.
The movies' plots are completely différent but they are still under the same house of horror that they are guests in. The main difference between these films is how well they have aged over the years.
Looking at both films from a technical perspective, The Shining has aged a lot better than its competitor, The Exorcist.
To start off, The Exorcist does have a few scares but the makeup looks too cheesy and dated to be scary nowadays and looks like something out of a soap opera with some horror elements added to it. Moreover, some scenes where the daughter is being incessantly possessed by the Devil look laughable and cringe-worthy.
The Shining, on the other hand, takes its time to build the intensity within the scene, as director Stanely Kubrick was known to be a master at that craft and used it throughout the run of the film to its advantage. Kubrock's movie has that intensity and build-up that the audience craves and gets more scares in its silence than its earth-shattering and loud sequences, which is a feat that The Exorcist fails to accomplish as that film constantly relies on bombastic sequences that are creepy but never seem to payoff for viewers.
The 1973 film, honestly, seems like it's trying too hard to be a horror movie and, as a result, the characters don't seem to go anywhere. Spoiler warning, but the priest gets killed at the end and saves the little girl from the Devil, which seems like a sweet ending, but it lacks zest and awe when the credits begin to roll.
Kubrick's film sees Jack Torrance seemingly being frozen after he chases after his son Danny through a maze, but that's not where the film ends. Audiences receive a long dolly shot where they see Jack Torrance in a 1920s portrait, which implies that he was sucked back into that time by the spirits that haunted the hotel, which left audiences' mouths agape in amazement.
I may end up upsetting a lot of fans of the 1973 film but it's only fair to point this out.
Critical Distance is an occasional series, looking back at films from the past through a fresh perspective.