Room 237 (2013)

Can somebody explain to me what the hell does Johnny Carson have to do with it?!?

Remember the movie the Shining? You know, the one where Jack Nicholson and his family go off to the Overlook Motel in the middle of nowhere, we he works on his book, she cooks all day, and the little guy, Danny, just runs around on his big-wheel like all of us dreamed of doing as kiddies, but without the hallucinations of dead people and evil twin sisters. Apparently some people think that this classic horror movie is more than just one’s descent into utter and total madness, and more about the Indian massacre’s that took place, the faked-Apollo Moon landing, the Holocaust, and many, many more random but thoughtful observations.

The Shining did, and still does, scare the absolute shit out of me to the point of where I walk down the street, go to my local Target, get a new pair of shorts or whitey-tighties, and continue you my viewing, only to have to go through the same cycle again and again and again. It’s honestly just one of those movies that still gets me, no matter how many times I watch or how many times I hear it brought up into conversation. However, I should stop talking all about the movie because that’s not what this documentary is about. Well, not really anyway.

As time has gone on for me and I have done more research onto this movie, Stanley Kubrick himself, and the movies that he’s made in the past, I’ve come to realize that not everything is as what it seems and 9 times out of 10, there are certain clues to make you think one thing, that leads onto another, and then to another, and so on and so forth. In other words, the guy was a nut-job but he was close to being a genius in how he was able to really nail down a lot of themes and ideas, just by using one, single image in one scene that you most likely won’t ever seen, even if you tallied up your viewing total to 10 times. Sounds a bit crazy, I know, but that’s where the subjects of this movie are all about.

I'm assuming that this means that elevators kill people, or something...
I’m assuming that this means that elevators kill people, or something…

Not only do they love the Shining to near-death, but they also love just paying attention to it and searching for each and every detail they can find to give them the bigger-picture of what it’s really all about. Some people go on about a certain painting in a scene, others talk about the color-scheme, and sometimes, they even go so far as to talk about when Danny rides around the hotel, and what the symbolism of the places he goes by really means. In all honesty, I’ve watched the Shining many of times, but the shit that these people have apparently found and made-up in their own minds as to what it all means, really surprised the heck out of me, as well as had me scratching my head.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I consider these people to be a bunch of nut-jobs that have nothing else better to do with their lives, than just study and go crazy over one film, analyzing from point-A to point-B. In all honesty, I sort of wish I had that skill, rather than just seeing a movie like Eternal Sunshine and coming up with the conclusion that, “Ohhh, I see. It’s a movie all about how you can’t remove the ones in your life because that’s who they make you are the person today. Wow. Intelligent.” Yes, that’s where my mind goes when it comes to analyzing movies and I’m not too ashamed of it because it feels and seems reasonable. However, these people’s conclusion do seem a little far-fetched at certain points.

Kubrick is one of those directors that you can study a crap-load of, and still never get the full picture on. That’s why it seems so understandable that all of these people would make conclusions about whether or not he meant to do something as a way to trick us, or to just have us thinking more about what he’s trying to say. His work is always studied and a documentary like this showed me why. But it also seems like a lot of these people have a lot more time on their hands than they should, and the certain conclusions that they come up with, sort of show it.

For a prime example, one of the clues that a person makes up is the fact that there is a chair in the background during one scene, then they go back to the very same angle in the very same scene and it’s gone. Whether or not Kubrick did this on purpose or plain and simply just fucked-up, is totally beyond me, but I highly doubt that Kubrick did it as a way to show him, as one person says in the movie, “It’s his way of showing us that this is not your ordinary, horror movie.” Really? The fact that he removed a chair had me expecting that this was not your average horror movie? I don’t know about any of yous out there, but for me, I knew right from the start that this was not going to be your typical horror movie where everything happened to the same beat they all do. However, that’s just me, but then again, it proved MY OBSERVATION (see, I’m getting smarter as you read)that maybe these people are a little too obsessed and need to take that skill of analyzing and observation elsewhere by getting a job, putting food on the table, and supporting the fam-squad.

To be honest, though, I’d be a fool to say that some of this didn’t reasonable and intrigue me, because it actually did. I liked to see how some of these people would come up with certain ideas, all because of clues they saw and that aspect of the movie, was actually cool. And some of it actually was freaky and got me in that vibe of actually watching the Shining again. One part of the movie talks about how a dude actually played the movie in it’s chronological order from beginning-to-end, but simultaneously, played the movie from end-to-beginning and showed how some of the images over-lap and actually add more feeling and emotion to the film that you would have never been able to see, had you not seen the film such as this. This was a tad freaky and very breathtaking to see how these people came up with certain conclusions, ideas, and thoughts of the bigger-picture, but that was the best out of 20 to 25 mediocre ones that didn’t make sense and didn’t do much to really reel me in.

Oh, and this means (once again, assuming) that old ladies are ewwwy...
Oh, and this means (once again, assuming) that old ladies are icky to infinity…

What I hold against this movie the most is that it’s so repetitive in the way that it shows us each aspect of the movie, and has each person say why and how they think the way they do, told in the most boring-way possible. We never see the people speak, ever, and in my mind, I imagined that they were all a bunch of rugged, pot smokers, that literally just woke up as they began their interview. The actual interviews themselves sound very poor, and even worse, there’s one that actually is interrupted by a guy’s kid who won’t shut up in the background. Now, I don’t know if this is just me or everybody else, but when you’re filming an interview and you’re making a movie, don’t you at least think that you’d want to do it at the best possible time for all parties involved, in order to make sure there are no interruptions or problems while the interview is being conducted? Also, to top that off, don’t you think it would be best to at least edit that interruption out so it doesn’t seem like a choppy-cut of what’s supposed to be the final-product? To me, it just seemed lazy and didn’t help the interview out anymore, considering they all just about put me to sleep, as everybody doing the interviews seemed to have just woken up. Maybe it’s a sign that I dream to!! Oh em gee! Time to make a documentary!

Consensus: Most people who are fascinated by movies and over-evaluating them to the point of where you’ve already gotten five hemorrhoids in the matter of a month, will probably go ape (yes, there is a big “ape talk” in the movie at one point) over Room 237 and what type of conclusions they come up with. However, for those who just want an interesting, entertaining, and thoughtful documentary on just what the hell Kubrick was talking about with Danny’s sweater, may only find yourself happy with the latter, as the two former’s are barely anywhere to be found. Final option: just watch the original Shining all over again and see if it scares the pants off of ya.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

And finally, this just means that Jack Nicholson is crazy. Oh yeah baby!
And finally, this just means that Jack Nicholson is crazy. Oh yeah baby!


  1. I just watched The Shining for the first time last week and immediately after watched Room 237. Although it proves how much people can deduct from something (wrong or not) like you say it does get repetitive and when I finished it I couldn’t say I got much out of it. I’d rather watch The Shining again instead of a documentary like this. I’m a bit surprised that it has been getting so much praise…

    • It was a cool documentary that may have me think twice about something I see in the Shining, but still; it was a tad dull after awhile.

    • Yeah, some of that stuff was cool, but not all of it. I think some people just smoked a bit too much weed and then decided to check this out. That’s what I think for some of these cats. Thanks!

  2. Great review. I was working on my own review of this just yesterday so it’s fresh in my mind. My overall take of it was basically the same. Even though it’s extremely entertaining these people were really grasping for straws to come up with material. Too bad, I was very excited about this.

    • It was a cool movie to see, no lie about that, it was just that these people seemed like they may have been paying a bit too much attention to everything. Thanks!

  3. I’m mostly interested in this documentary to find out some of the wacky crackpot theories people have about perceived messages in the film. I think Kubrick was a skilled enough filmmaker to have more going on than meets the eye, but he probably didn’t have intended commentary as wild as people are speculating. I agree with your comment about the missing chair. For all we know it could just be an accidental continuity error, so it seems silly that anyone would extrapolate the conclusion that you mention. But that’s one of the great parts about film as a medium. It can be interpreted in tons of different ways depending on the observer. Like with other artistic mediums, these interpretations may be on target or totally off the mark from what the artist originally intended. Unfortunately Kubrick is no longer with us to confirm or deny some of these theories. It seems like a shame that you found the production value to be low on the interviews considering this is such a fascinating subject for a documentary. I’ll check it out at some point.

    • It’s a good documentary that explores some crazy things and aspects about the Shining, that could have just been what Kubrick intended. However, some of it seems a little wacky.

  4. I so wanna see this. But I don’t think it’ll ever release here in India. 😦
    Good write-up…reading it made me wanna watch it even more.
    The Shining FTW!

  5. Kubrick was meticulous, and I’m certain the removal of the chair was intentional. But these guys prove what’s wrong with cinehilia; it’s obsessive beyond the point of reason; it’s reaching. Yes, they got some stuff right, but the vast majority of what they said was worthless.

    • Some of the stuff they said goes way over the point of the movie. Then again, who knows what the point really was in the first-place. Kubrick was THAT crazy.

  6. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to watch this film without rolling their eyes once or twice at certain points or theories (I have a feeling that the Holocaust guy would think the Apollo guy a nutjob and vice versa), but I don’t think that it was intended to be completely palatable either. Just as The Shining has many different elements in its mise-en-scene that could harbor hidden metaphors or meanings this film has many different observations that could harbor hidden truths an its up to us to take and leave these as we choose. Room 237 never said ‘this is the meaning of The Shining!’ and I appreciate it for that approach but I agree with you that there were some unprofessional elements – like the visuals or lack-thereof – that brought it own a bit. Still, as far as fan-conspiracies go this was still one of the better produced; most pot-fueled film-buff rants feature a complete lack of punctuation.

    • No, I definitely liked what the film was trying to show us in terms of what these people thought and why that was. However, some of them seemed a little too crazy, to even be comprehended.

  7. This is one I will probably skip. I’m on your side Dan. I think people (or cinephiles rather) would get more from watching the film over and over again rather than watching an overcomplicated and overwrought group of film enthusiasts dissect a great piece of art to death.
    Nice job!

  8. Unlike you, I do believe these are nut-jobs with way too much free time on their hands xD This quote serves to prove just the amount of over-readings you can fall into if you don’t realize cinema is such a happen-stance riddled medium:
    “I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport – neither of which belonged in a period movie. Only the person who’s made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work.”
    Sidney Lumet

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