Room 237 Review

Image for Room 237

Five Shining obsessives — a war reporter, a professor, a playwright, a musician and an author — expound their theories about Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. It’s so much better than it sounds.


As fastidious and obsessive as Kubrick himself, Rodney Ascher’s brilliantly imaginative investigation into The Shining is at once rigorously smart and gloriously bonkers, a work of fan faction that will make you think, laugh and send you back to the movie quicker than you can say Red Rum.

More than anything, Room 237 resembles the kind of critical video essay that is commonplace online but here is delivered with much more intelligence, wit and technical élan than the average movie-minded mash-up. Dividing into nine title-carded sections, Ascher dives headlong into the world of Overlook obsession. Some of the arguments on show are borderline obvious (it is a metaphor for the genocide of the Native American Indian), some are clearly crackpot (it is proof positive that Kubrick faked the moon-landing footage), others fascinatingly skirt the line in-between. Whatever the level of reason, Ascher presents these arguments with a lucid lack of condescension that allows each of them to reverberate as brain food.

To illustrate the arguments, Ascher offers a canny compilation of shots and scenes from The Shining, the ‘making of’ and Kubrick’s back catalogue. On-screen diagrams track Danny’s trike, revealing the hotel geography as impossible. We see the superimposition of shots as the film is projected forwards and backwards at the same time (check out the first and last shot juxtaposition). The carpet patterns, the Indian on the baking powder tin, Danny’s Apollo 11 jumper, German typewriters, Playgirl and, of course, the mysteries of Room 237 all come in for some marvellous scrutiny.

Ascher has also assembled a virtuoso collection of clips from all over the place — Mario Bava to Walt Disney, Jesus Christ Superstar to Schindler’s List — as sly counterpoint to the theories (the best involves Creepshow). The whole thing is nutzoid but is about more than just The Shining. Room 237 captures the true nature of viewing, talking about and dissecting movies to the nth degree and it is infectious. Think Cheaper By The Dozen is just a Steve Martin film about a big old family? Think again.

A celebration of Kubrick, The Shining and the thrill of watching, analysing and loving film. It’s the best movie about a movie we’ve seen in ages.