Thursday, September 26, 2013

Movie Review: Room 237 (2012)

You know, I love The Shining as much as every other horror movie fan or Stephen King fan or just plain old awesome movie fan. Stanley Kubrick was an oddball genius who created films that many people describe as "perfect." So taking into consideration Kubrick's careful filmmaking and attention to detail, is it possible that he had some much deeper meanings in mind when he created one of the most popular movies of all time?

Juli Kearns's Overlook map
The 2012 documentary Room 237 explores this issue, with interviews with several Shining fans giving their different interpretations and theories into what the movie represents. The interviewees are not seen on camera themselves nor are they given any kind of credentials other than the fact that they've obviously watched The Shining way, way, way, way too many times. Their theories are presented to the audience by way of clips from the film and other footage that sort of pertains to what they are talking about. 

This documentary was... hilarious. What, did you think I was going to say "fascinating" or something? No. If anything, I'll give the movie credit for being one of the best comedies I have seen in a while. Had me laughing the whole time. I've always known that there were some Shining fans out there who took the movie a tad bit too seriously and all, but this was my first time actually listening to them talk about this shit. Wait, I lied - I'd heard the stuff about the Native American genocide metaphor. It was funny to actually see them try to prove it to me. Anyway, though I admire the interviewees obvious dedication and perseverance, not a single one of their theories even slightly convinced me that The Shining is any more than it appears to be.

The conspiracy theorists actually do a good job of showing the "proof" of their ideas, even though they are all things that nobody else would have thought of... ever. They all say things like, "if you go frame by frame," or "you really have to look hard to find this one" when talking about their little Kubrick subliminal messages. I've seen the movie a pretty good number of times, okay? I never paid attention to what was in the background, granted. So here's a question for you - why would such a celebrated directed who obviously loved film put all the so-called "important" stuff in the background of his movie? Where did all this conspiracy shit even come from in the first place? Why can't the brilliance of The Shining just be that it is fucking awesome?

Seriously, the things they bring up about the movie are simply laughable. A baking soda can that is - gasp! - seen twice in the movie? A poster of a skier is really a depiction of a minotaur? The window in Ullman's office is improbable? Okay, yeah, I can kinda see where that one is coming from if I was anal retentive about architecture and spacial relations, but I'M NOT. Every time they mention some hidden message or whatever that looks to an outsider like a simple continuity error, the comment is always implied that Kubrick would never make such a mistake and that it has to mean something deeper. They saw what they wanted to see, and that's it. I'll give them that Kubrick was meticulous but not infallible. Continuity errors can happen to anyone. The world is an imperfect place.

My favorite theory was the one about how Kubrick used The Shining to subliminally tell the world that he staged the Apollo moon landing footage. Now that is just downright silly. It would be cool if it were true but you're really going off the deep end with that one, aren't you, sport? Okay, yes, I've always been a little curious about Danny's Apollo 11 sweater. Thought maybe it was just a 70s/80s thing that I wasn't around for and don't understand. There were lots of weird fashion trends going on then. Anyway, this is certainly the wildest theory to be represented in Room 237 and one that they thankfully did not spend that much time indulging.

In a weird way I liked the thing the one guy presented about watching the filming forwards and backwards at the same time, superimposed over one another. Yes, it does seem like you get some cool images from doing this, but seriously - stop and think about that for a second. Think about how much time and effort would have to be put into the filming and editing of that movie to make that happen like you think it's supposed to. It's damn near impossible. So that theory is definitely out for me.

Bah, if I go on thinking about this stuff anymore, I'll probably start to believe some of it myself. Room 237 is definitely something you all need to check out - whether you think you might agree with these fanatics or just laugh at them like I did. I really hate to be harsh, but it was sooooo difficult for me to even try to take any of this foolishness seriously. Maybe I'm just not as much of a deep thinker as these dudes are.


  1. Fully agree with your review. It was effin' hilarious and things like the Minotaur, the Moon conspiracy or the Calumet baking soda made me LOL a lot.
    However, several things totally fascinated me, like the whole World War topics or the forwards/backwards thing.

    1. The backwards and forwards thing was the only interesting thing I saw... even made me want to watch it that way, but I still can't see how that could have been planned! Everything else... just absolutely ridiculous. Didn't have me even remotely convinced.

    2. Interesting, yes; but if you pay attention, you see that they are running the movie off a DVD, because the anti-piracy warning comes up. Technically, that isn't a part of the movie, so it skews the runtime by several seconds, and makes it plain as day that there is literally no way Kubrick could have intended these things to happen. In other words, while some of that stuff results in some VERY cool images, it's all pure happenstance.

  2. I agree with you but I did like was how they showed that the hotel made no sense, reminded me of the Winchester house

  3. Here's one of my favorite things in the movie: the guy who claims that room 237 is a "moon room." Why does he claim this? Because the key hanging in the door says "Room No. 237" on it, and it you rearrange the letters, you can only spell two words: "room" and "moon."

    I thought about that for a few seconds, convinced that it was not actually true. And, sure enough, there IS -- despite what this crackpot claims -- another words you can spell with those letters.

    You can spell "moron" with those letters.

    Oh, how delighted I was when I thought of that!

    I loved the movie, though. I thought the editing of the clips was spectacular, and I thought the music was great, and in no way did I believe that more than about 5% of these theories held water of any sort. But that's okay, because I don't necessarily get the feeling that that was what the movies was about. I don't think the people who made it put much stock in the theories at all; I think they just want to suggest that a movie can inspire theory of that sort, no matter how flawed.