Review – Room 237

‘Room 237’ screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ is over 30 years-old and the famous “Here’s Johnny” line may get all the attention, but the film’s enduring legacy is the maze of ideas Kubrick may or may not have captured. ‘Room 237’ is a fascinating documentary that explores the ‘The Shining’ and the interpretative landscape of cinema.

Different experts/fans/intellectuals explain their theories about the ‘The Shining’ via voiceover as scenes from the horror classic are dissected.

For a documentary about a film, ‘Room 237’ does a really good job of keeping the focus on Kurbick’s work. The people providing the commentary are always kept off screen and a series of clips from various other movies are used for reenactment purposes.

The concepts presented range from clever insights to interpretations that are completely bonkers. Before calling for the straight-jacket on some of these people it’s worth pointing out that no matter how crazy it gets, each theory is backed up with hard evidence. Director Rodney Ascher brilliantly uses footage from ‘The Shining’ to back up the opinions in the same way an action replay is used during a sport broadcast. These are just a few people’s estimations and a few are based off what might be genuine continuity gaffes, but there is something wonderful about the power of Kubrick’s film and what people have taken away from the experience.

Underlying everything in Ascher’s documentary is a celebration of Kubrick, filmmaking and fandom. There is a wonderful moment in the film where one of the theorists tells a story about bonding with a stranger over a theory they shared about ‘The Shining’. It’s easy to laugh at the people in ‘Room 237’ but there is a lesson here about respecting other people’s opinions and opening up a dialogue. If a film like ‘The Shining’ has the clout to still get people talking after all these years it’s another huge compliment to Kubrick.

It’s worth noting that ‘Room 237’ works off the American cut of ‘The Shining’ that’s 146 minutes. The experience may differ for people who have only seen the European cut that’s 20 minutes shorter. Watching ‘The Shining’ before seeing ‘Room 237’ is essential regardless to go in with a fresh mind.

‘Room 237’ is a must see for any fan of ‘The Shining’ and it might win over a few new fans in the process. Enter the room and marvel at the Kubrickian enchantments.


Cameron Williams
The Popcorn Junkie

‘Room 237’ is released:

20 September 2012 US (Fantastic Fest)

26 October 2012 UK

Does not have a release date in Australia