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Room 237

2012 | 102 min | 1.78:1

Room 237


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Theatrical release date

 07 December, 2012
 26 October, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Room 237 Blu-ray

Room 237 Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 19, 2012

For some, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film, “The Shining,” is an effective chiller with a triumphantly realized streak of sinister, otherworldly behavior. For others, the picture is an interestingly crafted but hopelessly inert experience in directorial indulgence. However, for a select few, “The Shining” is a big screen Rubik’s Cube of interpretational delights, with every single frame of the movie containing a deeper meaning waiting patiently for feverish analysis to discover it. The creators of “Room 237” actually make an attempt to deconstruct the work, asking six participants of no apparent fame to share their study of Kubrick’s labor, with director Rodney Ascher piecing together a fascinating study of the feature and all the real and imagined secrets these interviewees have spent the greater part of the their lives obsessing over.

Perhaps Kubrick’s most enigmatic work dressed up a traditional studio horror experience, “The Shining” wasn’t a notable success during its initial theatrical release, disorienting ardent fans of the director while confounding those attentive to Stephen King’s original book. Time and home video access has permitted those with a taste for screen particulars to pore over frame details with precision, building a cult of sorts devoted to decoding Kubrick’s mischief and the complex messages that are allegedly plastered all over the picture. To accomplish this journey into the unknown, Ascher has gathered six personalities to discuss their efforts of inspection. We never see these participants, and outside of names flashing across the screen (frustratingly, only once), we know nothing about them. They’re just individuals who’ve gone out of their way to break “The Shining” down into microscopic puzzle pieces, sharing their theories and evidence with Ascher in a most enthusiastic manner. I’m sure it’s not every day that an outsider asks to hear these arguments, leaving the participants breathless in their excitement.

To enjoy “Room 237” requires patience with the interviewees. They are highly intelligent folk but they are fanatical types who take a few leaps of faith when it comes to cracking open Kubrick’s filmmaking intent. Mercifully, Ascher has access to clips of “The Shining” to back up most of the examples, also peppering in footage from other movies to construct more of a cinematic journey into the black heart of analysis, without the crutch of talking heads to provide a human touch. It’s just us, the determined voices, and celluloid images telling the story of the Overlook Hotel, sustaining a visual pulse to the documentary that’s refreshing, focusing primarily on the evidence, thus strengthening the often bizarre theories.

The asides are numerous, with each participant permitted time to feel around the edges of their arguments. The highlights of “Room 237” remain with the most convincing examples of Kubrickian intent, highlighting the hotel’s layout (with helpful maps) to emphasize the peculiarity of Danny’s Big Wheel rides, or discussing the placement of a managerial window that shouldn’t exist. One interviewee believes “The Shining” to be a secretive discussion of Native American genocide, with specifically placed Calumet Baking Power cans providing proof of intent. Another man is convinced the movie is an extended admission of guilt from Kubrick, whom he believes staged the Apollo 11 moon landings with tech culled from the production of “2001,” weaving costuming and set design clues into the finished work.

These people have studied the effort in detail, with repeated viewings and DVD step-frame ability fueling ideas that may or may not have any basis in reality. The fun of “Room 237” is hearing the speculation and the certainty, with simple continuity errors turned into thoughts of demonic influence, while the lone female voice alleges that a standard ski vacation poster hanging in the background of one shot is indicative of a larger concentration on Minotaur imagery that Kubrick was assembling. Some of these people honestly make sense, others sound like they jar their own urine for safekeeping. The blend of passions is irresistible.

However, what’s missing from the discussion is a dissection of a moment where a psychologically shredded Wendy catches a man in a bear suit performing oral sex on a ghostly Overlook partygoer. Now there’s a scene worth an autopsy. “Room 237” dips into numerology and suggests the hotel carpet pattern to be some type of a genetic map, but no pleasuring bear breakdown? It’s a missed opportunity.

“Room 237” chats up fairy tale influences, the mystery of Bill Watson, subliminal imagery, Colorado history research, superimposed presentations, and Jack Torrance’s preference for Playgirl as his pre-interview magazine distraction; however, all conversations eventually return to Kubrick. The man with a 200 IQ and limited patience crammed “The Shining” with all types of significance and puzzling, continuing on his cinematic adventure of layered meaning and unsolvable riddles. Watching “Room 237” guarantees a whole new perspective on the 1980 movie, while making any future viewing of “The Shining” immense fun with all this fresh information to process and flashes of madness to sort out. It’s a hypnotic documentary.

Director: Rodney Ascher

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