“Room 237” (2013) – Review

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Director: Rodney Ascher

With: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner

Room 237 is proof positive that if you are looking for hidden meaning in something, you’ll find it even if it isn’t there. Room 237 is a documentary about people who are overly obsessed with the movie The Shining. In voiceover only we are introduced to the principal theorists: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner. With the use of film clips, animation, and dramatization, we are presented their suppositions.

One person believes the entire film is about the Native American genocide as Americans moved West. There are obvious Indian motifs in the film:  the photos of chiefs on the wall, images of buffalo throughout the hotel. Another person believes the film represents Kubrick’s research of the Nazi’s and their final solution, which went into effect in 1942. He finds the number 42 everywhere. There are forty-two vehicles in the hotel parking lot; forty-two pieces of cutlery, utensils, and plates on the floor of the kitchen after they have been spilled; two times three times seven is forty-two. What about the hotel itself. It’s layout is impossible. How can the hotel manager’s office have a giant window with trees. What about the hotel manager during Jack’s interview? When he shakes Jack’s hand his crotch lines-up with his “in” tray and it symbolizes an erection. Still another person believes The Shining is infested with clues that the lunar landing footage was a hoax–just the footage not the landing–and the entire film he Kubrick’s guilt-trip about being the person who staged the landing for film. Jack’s tirade about his responsibilities to his employers is actually Kubrick’s tirade about why he filmed the staged landing.

Ascher’s, the director, decision not to show the theorists is a wise one. The style lends itself to a “Deep Throat” quality. Their anonymity adds weight to their testimony. It’s only after their views and ideas get more and more outlandish do we start to doubt their credibility. Can’t you see that “Ski” poster in the Game Room? From a distance doesn’t it look like an outline of the Minotaur. Obviously this foreshadows Jack in the Maze.

In the end this is a documentary about obsession. How left unchecked it can take over your life. One of the theorists believes he will be audited by the IRS next year and is being watched by the Federal Government. Another believes his life is now very similar to Jack’s.

Room 237 is best enjoyed if you have watched and are a fan of The Shining, and know how Stanley Kubrick operated. But as a stand-alone film without the required background information it cannot hold your attention.

Grade = C

PS I watched The Shining the following day, and I did look at it differently. I will admit I noticed something in story development I did not before. I’ll follow-up with that thread in my upcoming review in two weeks.

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

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About VictorsMovieReviews

I love movies. I watch them, read them, and am currently writting one. View all posts by VictorsMovieReviews

35 responses to ““Room 237” (2013) – Review

  • Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    Nice review Vic. I actually thought the decision not to show the theorists was a poor one as I thought it could just have been anyone saying these things. Still, it’s pretty fascinating, even if some of the theories are more than a little absurd!

    • VictorsMovieReviews

      My thoughts about seeing them is that it might have influenced me negatively. In other words, if they looked and dressed like The Simpsons Comic Book Guy I would have immediately–and unfairly to them–discounted their views on-site without giving them a chance.

  • filmhipster

    Quite disappointed with this documentary.

  • keith7198

    Agree. I was hoping for something more. It has some interesting elements but overall…meh

  • CMrok93

    Some of the stuff these people had to say was a tad bit far-fetched, but some moments were really cool and creepy. Good review Victor.

  • Mike Robinson

    Nice, interesting review. I still might watch it just to see what they have to say. I did have to think about what you meant by the “Deep Throat” quality for a little bit, because I had never seen that movie. I’ve seen The Shining plenty of times–love the long drive in. I just have never seen Deep Throat. Then I figured it out. Duh. Oh well. But even without the Deep Throat quality, I still might watch it.

    • VictorsMovieReviews

      Your Deep Throat tangent was funny. I’m glad you figured I meant the Woodward & Bernstein Deep Throat and not the 70s porn.

      If you like “The Shining”, then give the doc a watch. You will look at the film differently.

      Along that line, the O Cinema had a Kubrick Retrospective last week, and extended it this week. Check it out if you can. If I wasn’t out of town this weekend I would be at “Lolita” and “Paths Of Glory”.

  • Mr Rumsey

    Sounds intriguing even if a little disappointing. I imagine I’ll get around to this at some point, but I’m in no rush.

  • Nostra

    Nice review and as you know I wasn’t a big fan of it. Interested what theories you will be coming up with after watching The Shining again 😉

    • VictorsMovieReviews

      More items about editing and pacing that I was more aware of and paying attention. At least for me, after watching a film a few times I’m more in anticipation of certain scenes then the telling of the story as a whole. Watching “The Shining” after watching this Doc made me pay attention to everything as if it was the first time watching the film.

  • sanclementejedi

    Nice write up Victor, I wish that this film was a more scholarly study of the film. While some parts were excellent the film veered off to crazy town quite a bit. I am pretty sure you could have made the film be more serious yet still fun to watch.

    Just re-watched The Shining yesterday and after seeing 237 it does cause you to notice new things.

  • Eric @ The Warning Sign

    This is such an intriguing topic for a documentary. Shame to hear it is so disappointing though.

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