In the documentary Room 237 Rodney Ascher takes the in-depth pulse of five film historians, in particular their unique and sometimes kooky proposed conspiracy theories and observations on one of my top 5 horror films of all time. Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, Jay Weidener, and John Fell Ryan don’t spend much time talking about the actual plot of The Shining, but rather the genius of Kubricks 200 IQ and the lengths he went to tell his own personal agenda.
Blakemore is convinced The Shining is an allegory for how the white man slaughtered the Native Americans, pointing out how Kubrick specially placed Indian logo Calumet baking powder cans. Nazi historian Geoffrey Cocks believes it’s all about the Holocaust, citing how the typewriter that Jack Torrence writes on is German made and changes colors in the middle of the film. Ryan points out some the better hidden tidbits, as in how the TV has no cord ( how come I never noticed that?) and the fact that Jack is reading a Playgirl magazine in the main lobby before he’s interviewed by Stuart Ullman’s hotel manager Barry Nelson.
The award for most out there conspiracy theory is a tie between Juli Kearns and Jay Weidener. Kearns gives us gold with mapping out of the motel, but her love for mythology stretches way too far when she points out a poster hung up in one of the rooms with a skier on that she is convinced is actually a Minotaur (I didn’t see it). Weidener tells us that The Shining is really just an apology for Kubrick filming the fake Apollo 11 moon landing. Yes its a bit odd that the moon is 237,000 miles from Earth, but Weidener loses me in his next breath when tries to dig deeper by telling us the key for room 237 is labeled ROOM No. 237 and that the letter R-O-O-M-N can only spell room and moon (not true- norm).
As someone who wrote over 100 film reviews last year, a documentary about any film classic would be tantalizing, but an obsessive study into Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, The Shining, is a cinephile’s paradise.
The fun of Room 237 is not picking and choosing which one of the five’s theories are correct but in the journey that a movie can take us on. How the beauty or the truth really is in the eye of the beholder.
The random Kubrick film footage along with staged theater goers spliced to transition from one theory to the next doesn’t do much to enhance this doc. It mostly just comes off as filler.
My biggest deterrent is that we never see the faces of the five, and after their names are initially announced, they’re never brought up on screen again, so I found myself often guessing who was who. Maybe Ascher did this to thicken the mystery, but really it just created confusion.
Room 237 is often fascinating and at times hilarious. It’s an interesting descent into the proposed mysteries behind Stanley Kubrick’s classic, The Shining.
Take a Drink: anytime says 237.
Take a Drink: whenever a scene is analyzed frame by frame.
Take a Drink: whenever footage is shown from a Stanley Kubrick film.
Do a Shot: for the Stuart Ullman penis joke