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Room 237 – 6

Director – Rodney Ascher

Cast – Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I first learned of Room 237 while checking out Top 10 lists for both 2012 and 2013. It made the 2012 lists due to its festival showings and the 2013 list for its limited theatrical release. The plot summary is as simple as it gets. This is a film focusing on different interpretations of apparent subliminal messages within Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I am a big fan of documentaries within or associated with the horror genre, but I took my time getting to this effort because despite my positive review for it, I am not a big fan of The Shining. Expanding on my feelings towards The Shining would throw this review off topic, so if you are curious enough you can read my review for the film separately. Room 237 brings an interesting approach to the genre that I had yet to see regarding documentaries on select horror flicks, but its unconvincing material was a bit of a letdown for me.

Like I said, the approach to this documentary is pretty interesting. I have yet to see a doc looking into different theories behind what fans of the film believe to be subliminal messages. When I saw The Shining I assumed that most of the unique imagery in the Overlook Hotel had to serve a significant meaning, and in this effort you will see numerous interpretations of both large and small scenes. With the larger, more significant scenes I felt like some of the theories were believable. However, with the smaller scenes I had a hard time grasping why anyone would even spend the time/money filming the outlandish theories. There are times when the explanations come off very far-fetched, and for what it is worth, Kubrick’s longtime assistant Leon Vitali referred to the theories as “gibberish” and “without merit”.

Regardless of whether these theories will entertain you or not, the film itself is put together pretty well. It follows a simple outline and provides much more than footage from The Shining to “prove” its points. At times it does feel amateurish, like when one of the interviewees must step away from the microphone to quiet his crying child, so don’t expect an entirely serious effort. I give the filmmakers credit for piecing together a mostly-engaging experience that will surely appease those who are big fans of The Shining. Of course, I believe your enjoyment of the film will be highly influenced by how well you respond to the theories. If you buy into them you’ll think the film is genius. If you don’t, well, throw on Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, Doc of the Dead, or Birth of the Living Dead for the win.

Overall, Room 237 is a decent effort that may quality as one of the more overrated genre films of recent day – again, depending on how much you buy into it.

Rating: 6/10

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