Friday, April 5, 2013

Room 237 review

In 1980, Stanley Kubrick made his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Today, fans are still obsessing over its hidden meanings. That's the tagline for Rodney Ascher's documentary about The Shining, titled Room 237. The fans definitely do obsess over the film, down to the finest detail. What you get is a really entertaining documentary about a film that is bound to frustrate some because of the pure lunacy of some theories, but will intrigue others. Room 237 sucked me in with the hypnotizing score and endlessly fascinating theories that provide a brand new way to look at a frightening horror film.

Room 237 is a documentary about The Shining that is divided into pieces. There is no clear narrative to the film. It is really scattered and all over the place. I will argue that it's ability to flip-flop between theories is a good thing. This synopsis will basically describe a couple of the theories. This movie is not a film that you can spoil. I knew quite a bit about the theories presented in Ascher's film but I was still mesmerized by what was put forth. The most plausible theories are that The Shining is a film about the holocaust, with the number 42 showing up a lot (1942- Hitler put "the final solution" into effect) and a German typewriter. The other plausible theory is that Kubrick faked the moon landing and that The Shining is his confession for faking. All of this is presenting with actually quite a bit of significant evidence. Other theories about a minotaur and Indian genocide, I found less plausible. Room 237 not only presents theories about what The Shining means, but it also digs deep into the film's incongruence and continuity along with its sexual imagery and just a total history of the film.

I honestly don't have a ton of criticisms about the film. Any movie that makes me want to watch it again immediately is good and right after I finished Room 237, I wanted to watch it again (thankfully, I have the rental for 48 hours). It's an endlessly interesting film and you can watch it 500 times and get something different out of it each time. In a lot of ways, it is a autobiography of director Stanley Kubrick and tells of a lot of the reasons he made the films he did. Judging by the 2.5/5 rating on Amazon with a lot of people saying that Room 237 was stupid and that none of the theories made sense. I don't know if it makes me crazy, but it totally convinced me on some of it's theories, especially the moon landing and holocaust. 

Ascher's direction and the way he cuts this film together is phenomenal. For a film that is nothing but people talking over intercut footage, the direction is spectacular. The way that Ascher puts together scenes from films such as Eyes Wide Shut, All the President's Men, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more to tell the story that one of the interviewees might be telling is a truly clever invention. The documentary's pacing is also incredible; thanks to many different things including music, the film moves along at lightning speed. 

The film score for Room 237 is mostly fast paced and intense. But it also includes re-recordings of the original Shining score with a new modern twist. It is absolutely one of the most riveting and terrific film scores ever made and it was mesmerizing. As if Room 237 doesn't suck you in enough, this puts the cherry on top and with this score, you are fully invested in the stories that the interviewees are telling. 

Before I conclude this review, I actually want to review the theories that the film prevents. They do have evidence. Not a ton, but enough to make some of them believable. Let's start with the Minotaur in the maze. This theory makes no sense. The film lost me for a bit here. Apparently, someone decided that due to a Minotaur poster in the background, the film is actually about an evil minotaur or something. I don't know, there's not enough evidence. The genocide of the American Indians is also a bit implausible. The interviewee, Bill Blakemore, claims that due to a Calumet baking soda can in the background, along with pictures of Native Americans, that the film is about the Native American genocide. I felt that there wasn't enough there for that theory to exist. 

The theory that I found plausible was the fake moon landing. There is a ton of evidence to back it up and the storyline fits right with the story that the interviewee presents. The film could very well be about that and the fact that NASA has come after the man who said that puts even more evidence to present that as a plausible theory. I found that throughout the theories that the overarching theme was what the film was about. Coming to terms with the past. Danny can see the past and it's bad but you have to get through that. They address that in the film as well. 

If you like movies, you'll love Room 237. If you like The Shining, you will love Room 237 even more. I will say that I intend to look into this film further and will definitely watch The Shining again. I can say one thing, you won't look at that film the same. All the reviews have said that and they are spot on. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.5/10)

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