By Dirk Sonniksen | March 30, 2013
Director: Rodney Ascher
Attention all cinematic conspiracy theorists — your film is here. Yes, it’s Room 237, a documentary bent on proving Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is not merely another horror movie, but rather, every single intellectual pondering Stanley Kubrick ever had! Ever! Indeed, if you were thinking The Shining was just some scary movie with Jack Nicholson and cool cinematography, well boy, were you way off. If, perhaps, you were thinking The Shining was all about the Native American genocide, the Holocaust, and Stanley Kubrick’s role in faking the Apollo moon landing (I’m serious), then you’re sharp as a tack. Yes, Room 237 features more conspiracy theories than a tea party rally with an open bar.
Room 237 is narrated by the…interviewees, folks that are clearly very excited about their belief that Stanley Kubrick was trying to cram far too many subliminal messages into one movie. One guy has a kid who starts talking in the background during the interview (subliminal message perhaps?); man, do I feel sorry for that kid, and by the way little fella…we’re rolling here! Another guy tries to show us Stanley Kubrick’s likeness in the clouds during the film’s opening sequence, and yes…no, I don’t see it — anywhere. A woman describes a poster on the set, carefully placed by Kubrick, no doubt. Oh, you think it’s a skier? Sorry dummy – centaur. Geezus, are you people blind?
I started Room 237 trying to be open-minded, wanting desperately to be swept up in all the commotion, but it didn’t take long before I was laughing hysterically at the majority of the ideas presented. It’s as if all these folks took mushrooms and were asked after the film, “So, what did you see, man?.” In all fairness, there were some interesting tidbits like the guy (I think it’s the same guy with the loud kid) who shows The Shining forward and backward at the same time, and starts rambling about this crazy backward thing. Wow, people walk backward in this film – so let’s show it backward! It’s a sign!
There are those in the film that attempt to validate their beliefs based on Stanley Kubrick’s intelligence (he’s super-smart, so he put all this stuff in the movie). Regardless of Kubrick’s elevated IQ, there’s no way he could have thought up all this whackiness, and more to the point, why would he? One interviewee claims that Kubrick was so bored after directing Barry Lyndon that he basically went bonkers and created a truckload of subliminal weirdness for The Shining. I would argue that, if any of this is true, it had less to do with boredom and more to do with Kubrick being possessed by demons on the set. There, I started a theory of my own.
If you’re a devout follower of the great and powerful Kubrick (this is your cue to bow to the monolith you’ve built in the garage), you’ll likely consider Room 237 an affront to the genius of one of our most acclaimed directors; if you’re one of the more loosely packaged followers, you’ll likely find Room 237 right up your alley. The question is, should any of this be taken seriously, and my answer is no, but hey, to each his own. Room 237 is an entertaining documentary and there are indeed some strange coincidences regarding the making of The Shining, but overall it’s just that — coincidence. While I cannot buy into these theories, I do appreciate that there are those that do, for we would not have gems like Room 237 without your participation. I salute you — just stay away from my kids.
Rating: 8 of 10
Room 237 opens April 5 at Sundance Sunset in West Hollywood, Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, and South Coast Village in Costa Mesa.