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High Art or Highly Overrated? Love ’em or Hate ’em: Three of the Most Divisive Horror Movies of All Time

“De gustibus non est disputandum” is a string of words told by an unknown wise man or woman from our distant past that has a meaning that spans across millennia (it’s in Latin, a language dead long ago, dead since around 750 AD).

It basically states that tastes — which are definitely subjective — should not be discussed or debated. Yet, this is what most people are doing today in relation to everything from celebrities to politicians, food, movies, even minimum deposit casinos. Horror movies are not an exception either.

There is no universally loved or hated horror movie (albeit there are a handful that have come close to the latter). Yet there are some that have sparked massive debates about the value of the story told, or the way it was put on the silver screen.

We highlight three of the most discussed and heavily debated films below. 

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

We have Stanley Kubrick to thank for a series of memorable and trend-setting movies. One of his best-known works is perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has changed the way people look at science fiction cinema in 1968. Yet one of his most discussed works to this day is The Shining, the vision of Stephen King’s classic novel he put on screen.

There are many who consider the movie one of the best horror movies of all time, one that has given us the chills at best and nightmares at worst. It is a critically acclaimed movie that holds an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (it seems to be the most important metric today), paired with a 93% approval rating from viewers (based on over 479,000 viewer opinions). On the other hand, the movie is often criticized for its deviation from the novel (King famously hated the adaptation) and the lack of development of the character Jack Torrance, who is simply seen to go from slightly mad to batsh*t crazy. Some would even say that the movie isn’t scary at all — although that’s heavily debated as well.

mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

Many of Darren Aronofsky’s works are aimed at indie viewers, which makes them pretty hard to digest for the average moviegoer. mother!, in turn, takes things even further. On the surface, it is about a couple living in a secluded Victorian house, he (Him) is a poet struggling with writer’s block, she (Mother) is a housewife renovating and cleaning their home. Then the guests appear, all nameless but with a definite attitude, turning their simple life into a vivid nightmare.

The movie is an allegory in itself, speaking of creation, religion, faith, good, and evil — and one that seems hard to grasp for many. The movie has been praised by critics for its thought-provoking story and visuals, yet bashed by most viewers for being pretentious and hard to understand.

The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

The Exorcist

It’s the oldest story ever told: good meets evil, good fights evil, and in the end, good wins. But in this film, “evil” is an ancient demon taking possession of a 12-year-old girl, and “good” is a flawed but determined priest trying to save her soul. It is a movie as much about faith (and the loss of it) as it is about a demonic possession. The Exorcist is a movie almost universally loved today, but it was vehemently hated by many at the time of its first release.

The Exorcist is a movie said to have been released ahead of its time. It was bashed by critics for its grotesque special effects and its liberal use of sacrilege and profanity, which gained it the label of a “religious porn film”. Some even called it “deeply evil”.

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