Room 237 (2012) – Review

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 If you ever wanted proof that some people just have too much time on their hands, well, here you are. This documentary feature from the back end of last year spends its entire running time trying to convince us that there is more to ‘The Shining’ than meets the eye. The title comes from the room in the Overlook Hotel that holds as much fear for its audience as it does fascination. If only there was as much of either of these things here to dwell on, then this may have been a more satisfying experience.

The whole thing is a bit ropey from minute one when you have a look at the cast list. To call a collection of people in a documentary a ‘cast’ in the first place is a bit of a head-scratcher, but then to find the notable names on that list only appear through the medium of archive footage and you are already thinking about giving this as wide a berth as you possibly can, given that you’re already stuck watching the thing. So no Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Stanley Kubrick, Keir Dullea OR Stephen King then? That’s right. Video of them, yes. Lots. But this is may be not as impressive. If I made a documentary, this means if I stick a bit of footage from Eyes Wide Shut or 2001 in it, then I could add Cruise, Kidman and Dullea to my cast list too?
As Adam Buxton might say, “Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.” And he would be right. What we get here is a collection of philosophies, notions and ideas from…let’s call them ‘enthusiastic’ fans of The Shining. That is the movie we’re referring to, and not the book. I’m not entirely convinced all of these people can actually read, but perhaps I’m being too hard on them (no).
“I was paralyzed. Frozen in my seat. The Usher had to come and get me up.”
The quote directly above is just one of the ridiculous comments from at least one of the featured ‘fans’ here. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to watch a film that rendered me physically incapable of movement by the end of its running time. Given that this statement, like many others, is delivered so matter-of-factly, it makes you wonder just what else these experts in their fields are capable of exaggerating. It doesn’t breed confidence in the audience and if anything, immediately makes you question whether this documentary is going to have any kind of authority, or whether it’s actually just either a bit of a spoof, or an incisive belittlement of its main players.
“Most anything in his (Kubrick) films can’t be regarded as arbitrary.”
So, was The Shining a deeply (very deeply) veiled comment about the genocide of native American Indians? Perhaps it has a deeply laid subtext that takes on the holocaust? The general opinion from those featured is that it is most definitely ‘deep’. Not just ‘man goes stir crazy in the snow and takes it out on his wife and kid’, then? Hell no. If that’s all you’re seeing, you’re apparently not looking anywhere near hard enough. How do we know this? Because these people have seen the film literally hundreds of times. Forget the fact that this probably makes them less of an authority than someone who has watched it, say, three times, and if you can’t understand why then I’m afraid I can’t help you, but let’s just say that obsession is generally regarded as unhealthy in most situations.
The films trawls out more and more ludicrous conspiracy theories (moon room? really?) from these faceless narrators that claim to have a handle on Kubrick, almost as well as the great man himself. He was responsible for the faked moon landing footage or that he didn’t make continuity errors, they were there on purpose. In the same breath, these people suggest that ‘nothing’ Kubrick does is arbitrary, but then explain a chair that was present in one scene and missing in the next as ‘on purpose’, despite it never occuring again or seemingly having any point for its presence to begin with or absence afterwards. Their rabid fascination with the film smacks more of a life wasted on a fixation that is pointless and fruitless rather than becoming an authority on the subject they claim to have some better understanding of than you or I.
As a presentation of futility, this is a good example of geekdom gone interstellar. Forget the fact that these people are wrong about a great many things, see elements and theories where there are none, but even if there were elements unseen until now and they were right, most people other than themselves and their internet chatroom hangers on probably wouldn’t even care. Yes, Kubrick was a great film-maker, but he was still human. With the exception of one piece of interesting information which has the possibility of ringing true (the red VW Beetle and Kubricks disdain for Stephen King and his story), this documentary is practically and intellectually redundant.
As Danny rightly asks in The Shining when in conversation with Halloran, “what is in Room 237?” Halloran stares intently back at the young boy and states quite categorically (and ironically here) “Nothing. You just stay out of there.”
Halloran, it seems, was right all along and I would advise you to do the same.

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