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Room 237

Release Year:              2012
Studio:              IFC Midnight
Format:              Colour; widescreen; NTSC
Rated:              Not Rated
Running Time:              102 Minutes
DVD Release Date:              September 24, 2013
Directors:              Rodney Ascher
DVD Features:             SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:              8/10

IFC Midnight Write-up:    
In 1980 Stanley Kubrick released his masterpiece of modern horror, THE SHINING. Over 30 years later we’re still struggling to understand its hidden meanings. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative documentary ROOM 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with both fanatics and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s still-controversial classic.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
There are film geeks and there are film geeks. There are those whose very life is defined by celluloid and video (the parents’ basement dwellers) and those whose scholarly attention and insight into cinema earns them respect and admiration from film fans around the world (e.g. successful film critics). The wanna-bees and the legits.

In ROOM 237, the at times fascinating, at times maddening documentary about Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of horror and madness, we are given a glimpse into the theories and ideas of some of the more esoteric representatives at one end of the film analytical spectrum.

There is no question Kubrick was one of the great filmmakers of the ages. There is also no question that Kubrick as a person and as a filmmaker was fascinated (perhaps obsessed) by details about things that interested him. Great art is in the details, after all. But is it possible to take things too far?

The nine segments of ROOM 237 present an autopsy of THE SHINING from the perspective of Kubrick’s supposed hidden meanings that exist in the film. Some of these details, such as the sweater Danny wears that references the Apollo 11 moon landing–suggesting that it was Kubrick who was responsible for all the famous footage of the moon landing–are patently absurd.

As the ridiculous theories pile up, however, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers are not trying to convince the audience that this wild assortment of theories is true or false, but that they are simply out there, put forth by a variety of people who seem to have nothing better to do than formulate theories about THE SHINING.

In a gradual, fascinating way the film becomes a metaphor for peoples’ obsessions slowly driving them to madness, which is, of course, what happens to Jack Nicholson’s character in THE SHINING. The question then becomes “whose obsessions are worthy and whose are not?” If you’re Stanley Kubrick and your talent equals your obsessions and elevates your attention to detail to the status of great art, even genius–so much so that people are analyzing your films over 30 years later–then that is fine; a curious but obvious measure of success and accomplishment.

If, on the other hand, you are quoted in a documentary concerning said genius’ work and yet are not even seen on camera, perhaps you run the risk of being taken a little less seriously!

There is a pseudo-ominous quality to ROOM 237 which makes it a little more fun to watch than if it did feature the talking heads of the theorists. THE SHINING is so full of great moments and images: from “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” to the pursuit in the frozen maze, to the creepy little girls to Danny’s finger bending “redrum” to, most memorably, the oceans of blood cascading from the elevator and drowning the camera (and, by extension, the viewer).

In the end, we either enjoy THE SHINING as a classic of modern day horror, or we don’t. But most of us won’t obsess over it.