Movie #128 2021: Room 237 (2012)

Everyone knows Stanley Kubrick adapted The Shining into a movie. Many people know that the author of the original book (Stephen King) despised that movie. I’m one of those people that are middle-of-the-road; I don’t love it, but I don’t dislike it either. It’s quite stylish. It’s a little bit weird. Jack Nicholson is the MVP. Et cetera. But I just don’t L O V E it. Unlike the people who made this ‘documentary’ and seem overtly obsessed with it.

Room 237 is sort of a ‘deep dive’ into the supposed subliminal messaging in the 1980 film, put together by director Rodney Ascher, who recently released another paranoia ‘documentary’ named A Glitch in the Matrix, in which people argue that the entirety of human existence is a simulation. As you’d expect, I was a little bit dubious about watching Room 237 because it’s so clearly evident that these crazy theories are just a tad insane. After watching, I realise that that’s probably an understatement.

Aide to Kubrick on 'Shining' Scoffs at 'Room 237' Theories - The New York  Times

What I’m saying is, Room 237 is less of a documentary and more of a bunch of conspiracy theories strung together. However, if you take it all with a pinch of salt and don’t believe everything you’re told, it’s got some pretty interesting ideas within it. 

Whilst there are one or two theories that have some merit (the theme of Native American displacement and the Colorado Gold Rush for example), so much of this is more than likely coincidental. Sorry, but it is. You really expect me to believe that Stanley Kubrick helped fake the moon landing? Come on, take off your tin foil hat, babes. (After watching, I found out that many people involved with the making of the original movie found this entire film hilarious. The majority of them have come out to say that absolutely none of the theories here are true, and Kubrick rather just wanted to make a decent film.)

Room 237 Reviews - Metacritic

What I will say is that it’s all really well put together. The editing is sharp, relevant, and consistently visually interesting, effortlessly matching sequences from The Shining and behind-the-scenes footage to the commentary. The commentators involved however? Their theories just aren’t persuasive enough for you to take any of them seriously. It’s almost as if they were more nuts than the film itself.

Sadly, the main downfall here for me is that it all gets quite tedious after the first hour. This is a clear cut case of trying to include too much in a short space of time (the film attempts to stuff in nine whole segments). If Room 237 focused solely on the more conceivable theories and went into more depth on those ideas, I may not have completely zoned out due to the fleeting one paragraph explanations and dreary voiceovers. In short, I stopped paying attention and I have no doubt you will too.

The fact that this film starts with a disclaimer to inform the viewer that Kubrick had nothing to do with it is an immediate warning siren. There’s certainly some food for thought here, but it’s quite clear that the majority of this is pure conspiracy from over-zealous movie fanatics.

Interesting at times, but it didn’t need to be made in all honesty.

Room 237 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and the BFI Player in the UK.

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