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Still shining after all these years: Room 237 is worthy of a visit

by Mark Burger

Director Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 (***½) is a delightful documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror epic The Shining. This documentary, however, is not about the making of the movie, but the meaning(s) behind it.

The film’s title refers to the most lethal room in the haunted Overlook Hotel, while also recognizing one of the many changes Kubrick made in adapting Stephen King’s bestseller (in which the specific room was 217). In interviews over the years, King has acknowledged that the film version of The Shining was much more Kubrick’s vision than his own — which  is one reason King revisited the novel in a subsequent 1997 miniseries for ABC (which is not referred to here).

Given how painstaking and meticulous a filmmaker Kubrick was, there’s no question that some of the symbolism discussed here is intentional, including allusions to the extermination of American Indians during the 19 th century… but who would have guessed that some of the film’s imagery implies that Kubrick was involved in the faking of the moon landing in 1969?

The off-screen narrators posit their theories in absorbing, persuasive terms. They certainly believe the opinions they’re giving, and have watched The Shining long and hard and countless times to “prove” their assertions. One of the keys to the film’s success is that it’s never static. Judiciously utilizing clips from The Shining and a host of other films — including Kubrick’s, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) — Room 237 is steady, heady fun, and vastly entertaining throughout, whether or not you buy any of the theories proposed.

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