Keep on Shining
Room 237 is a film about a film or, more specifically, an essay like documentary discussing Stanley Kubrick’s psychological horror The Shining. Taking his cue from recent output in the genre such as Senna, director Rodney Ascher abandons the traditional ‘talking heads’ format and, instead, offers up an often fascinating patchwork of a film that delves into the murky depths of one of the most terrifying movies ever made.
Each of its selected pundits are as rabid as the next, relaying their frequently bizarre theories with the confidence of a lunatic. One believes The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust, another thinks it’s all about the Native Americans. As the film progresses the theories graduate into stranger territories (“the whole movie is actually Kubrick’s veiled confession that he staged the moon landing footage” / “you can only truly comprehend The Shining if you superimpose it playing backwards over the film playing forwards”) but each one, no matter how weird, is readily substantiated by a handful of freshly grabbed straws.
Make no mistakes, Room 237 is unabashed and rampant fanboyism at its most indulgent and those who are not interested in film criticism or the exploration of finding deeper meanings in ambiguous movies are not going to get much out of Ascher’s documentary. Nor will those who have not seen The Shining. However, those who are and have will find Room 237 very well put together and mostly engaging; its tone fluctuating between interesting film criticism and ramblings you might find scrawled across the walls of a public lavatory, no doubt written in feces.
The conclusion is that there are no conclusions; each presented theory remains a theory and nothing more. By the end the horrifying upshot of this is clear to see: each of these pundits, all of these die hard fans, have become exactly like Nicholson’s Jack Torrance; utterly obsessed and, in their own individual way, trapped inside the Overlook Hotel forever.
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