Film Review: Room 237

Room 237Since the birth of cinema all those years ago, there are few films that have captured people’s imagination quite like The Shining. There are some who think Stanley Kubrick butchered Stephen King’s original text (including, famously, King himself), whilst there are many who believe it is one of the deepest, most meticulously put together films of all time.

Room 237 is a series of theories on the The Shining’s themes and messages from some who very much believe the latter.

Now, you’re enjoyment of Room 237 is going to hinge on a couple of important factors. The first is whether or not you’ve seen The Shining. For those who somehow haven’t seen it yet, then there’s probably not going to be much here to like. The second factor is how you feel about modern film criticism. If someone analysing films’ smallest and seemingly inconsequential details irks you then, again, this probably isn’t wise viewing.

Here we have five film theorists picking The Shining apart in excruciating detail, their interpretations carrying varying levels of plausibility. There are suggestions that the film is really about the genocide of the native Americans, whilst another theory is that this was Kubrick’s Holocaust film. Whilst these seem reasonable given the evidence presented, other theories carry less weight. That The Shining was Kubrick’s admission that he helped fake the Apollo 11 moon landings, whilst still interesting, is stretching things ever so slightly.

Kubrick is famous for the attention to detail he lavished upon his pictures and there’s a very good chance that some of what’s being offered here was indeed the filmmaker’s intentions. However, assertions that an office paper tray has been purposely placed to create a phallus when Overlook manager Ullman stands next to it is laughable at best. According to one of the theorists, whether Kubrick intended these messages is besides the point; what matters is that they’re there. How anyone can judge what Kubrick has unconsciously put into his films is bizarre and a even a little arrogant.

In terms of how the documentary has been created, Room 237 is a little amateurish. We are never see anything of the five theorists; they are simply faceless voices, which does diminish their claims somewhat. As you’d expect, we see a series of scenes from The Shining to help explain the various claims, but we also get a number of scenes from other Kubrick films, as well as several other unrelated films, that actually make everything a little confusing. A random scene from Spartacus or A Clockwork Orange adds nothing to what’s being shown.

Whilst much of what’s being said can be disputed or flat out denied, what cannot be refuted is the lasting impact of The Shining. Above anything else, what Room 237 makes blindingly obvious is that this is a film that enraptured film critics and fans around the world and continues to do so. Maybe a paper tray does resemble a huge penis (it doesn’t) or perhaps Kubrick’s face can be seen in the clouds during the title sequence (it can’t), but what’s not up for debate is the passion some have for The Shining and that its impact doesn’t look like diminishing any time soon.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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38 thoughts on “Film Review: Room 237

  1. Nice review. I pretty much agree – a really interesting subject and some brilliant whacko theories. But as a whole, the doc didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’d say 3.5 is about right.

  2. This is one of the films where the more I hear about it, the less I want to see it. I just hate the conspiracy angles, especially the fake moon landing thing. I still want to see it, but I’ll probably hold out until Netflix has it. Great review though.

  3. Tyson Carter says:

    Looking forward to this but seems to be getting lots of average scores. 😦

  4. frameraters says:

    The critics that have moaned solely about the content of the theories and thus rate the film on the theories alone are missing the point of the movie I think. It’s a document on how people consume film, and that it’s a medium that is more than just moving images. People can develop meaning (however crackpot and unbelievable) and I think the documentary achieves this. You are completely right about the way the doc is constructed though; I felt it was the weakest aspect of the whole project. 3.5 seems like a good amount of pigeons here!

    • No you’re right, and I hope I got a bit of that across in my review, that above everything else the documentary shows that films mean a hell of a lot to some people and it’s interesting that people are still trying to find hidden meaning in it. I’m 50/50 about the director’s intentions being only a part of what the film is about. Part of me thinks that if the director didn’t put it there, then it’s not there.

  5. keith7198 says:

    Very nice review! I think you touch on what did work for me in this documentary. I was fascinated with the passion these five people had. I was also fascinated with the varied interpretations of the film that each shared. On the other hand, for the most part their series were preposterous. There were certain things I did find interesting that they pointed out in the film. But as a whole, not being able to buy into their series made the movie begin to drag a bit for me.

    • Cheers Keith. It really is amazing how much depth people are have examined The Shining in. There were some theories that I could buy into, like the whole native Indian thing and the Holocaust thing, but some of it was absurd. The fact that the film is still being discussed at such length, though, shows how powerful a film it is though. Or how crazy some people are!

  6. Hunter says:

    Ha! Kubrick faked the moon landings! I literally laughed out loud at that one.
    I haven’t seen The Shining yet but I probably won’t see this film anyway; Criticism is a little hard to take anyway, and if people are just going to go to crazy town with then I just can’t stand it. Funny review though:)

    • Haha, yeah that’s one of the more absurd ones, especially when you see how the theory is rationalised! This kind of film criticism isn’t for everyone. I like it to a certain degree, but it just becomes a little too farfetched after a while. I would definitely recommend The Shining, by the way!

  7. Mark Walker says:

    Nice one Chris. I really want to see this. It’s sounds like a good companion piece to the film.

  8. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Chris. Some of the observations are smart and thought-provoking, others are a bit too nerdy for my taste. That chair idea really made me scoff.

    • Thanks Dan. If they’d have stuck with the main theories, such as the Holocaust and stuff like that, it would have been a lot more interesting, but when they go on about seeing Kubrick’s face in the clouds and stuff like that, they lose quite a bit of credibility, I think.

  9. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I really want to see this film since The Shining’s one of my favorite movies but I’ll lower my expectations.

  10. table9mutant says:

    Great review. Really want to see this as I love The Shining but do expect to find all the theories completely ridiculous. But it’s always amusing to hear what crazy things people come up with when they over-analyze movies. As long as it doesn’t ruin The Shining for me (I doubt it will).

    • Thank you 🙂 Nah, I doubt it’ll ruin it for you. And not all of the theories are totally crackpot, there are some really interesting ones in there that are perfectly plausible. Although it’s almost impossible to know whether they were intended or just what people have made up themselves.

  11. ruth says:

    This is a popular one the past few weeks. I have read about half a dozen reviews of this but unfortunately, since I haven’t seen The Shining in its entirety (not sure I ever will), I don’t think it’s for me. Great review though Chris!

    • Thank you Ruth 🙂 I know you’re not a huge fan of horror films but I would still recommend The Shining, I didn’t find it that scary aside from a couple of scenes. It’s more on the psychological side of horror. And yeah, if you haven’t seen The Shining, then this documentary probably won’t interest you all that much to be honest!

      • ruth says:

        I actually have seen parts of it and I already know the ending as I’ve read about it, but yeah maybe I’d give the film a shot, but not the documentary though. Thanks Chris!

  12. filmhipster says:

    It’s like I entered your body and you wrote exactly what I thought. Well done Chris, I could not agree with you more.

  13. Great write up here, Chris! I totally agree with the last two (penis and Kubrick’s cloud face – NOT THERE) haha! Whilst I agree some are stretching it a little, I really enjoyed just hearing all the different opinions 🙂

    • Thanks Georgina. It is pretty fascinating to see just how obsessed some people are with the film and it’s pretty amazing that they have come up with some of these theories. I can’t imagine watching a film so many times that I could see such tiny details and conjure up theories from them.

  14. From what I’ve heard, the theories presented here are all a little whacked out. None of them are really very substantial, and theyre all kind of wild.

    Hearing you say they’re not presented all that well isnt a good sign, either.

    I’m such a huge fan of The Shining that I’ll probably give it a watch anyways, but hopes arent exactly high 😦

    • Some of the theories are really interesting. For me, the ones about it being about the slaughter of the native Indians and the Holocaust carry the most weight but others are absolutely insane.
      Some people like the way it’s presented, but I thought it was a little basic. It’s essentially just phone conversation played over clips of The Shining. You or I could easily have made it, I reckon.

  15. claratsi says:

    Defo want to see this, forgot about it TBH, thanks for reminding. Would like to see more on those theories, I love that kind of thing and the completely absurd ones. I like how you wrote this one Terrence.

  16. I watched about 20 minutes of this, but go too bored to finish the doc. Most of it seemed too far-fetched and stretched theories way too far. The only theory that may be slightly plausible would be the American Indian theory. I recall the film states in the beginning that the hotel was built over Indian burial grounds, while the book doesn’t incorporate this.

    Great poster for this doc though…love that at least! Good review!

    • Thanks Courtney. Yeah most of these theories are just absurd really. I agree that the most plausible one is the native Indian one and I also reckon the Holocaust one is possible too. I found those ones interesting, although I’d already read most of it either in books or on the Internet anyway.

  17. monster1711 says:

    I’ve yet to check this one out, but have it waiting on my iTunes. Nice review and awesome site, terrific content, I am now following. I recently started my own film blog and would love for you to check it out.

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