10 Years Ago: 'Room 237' Explored Weird and Wild Fan Theories About 'The Shining' | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS
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10 Years Ago: ‘Room 237’ Explored Weird and Wild Fan Theories About ‘The Shining’ 

For as long as movies have been discussed on the Internet, there have been fan theories. Usually, they’re dumb. Occasionally, they’re insightful. 

Room 237, director Rodney Ascher‘s documentary film that arrived in the spring of 2013 — ten years ago now — brought fan theories into the movies themselves. The conceit is simple: Nine people provide their own theories about a single film, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 The Shining.

None of the theorizers are shown on camera, but rather they speak in voiceover as footage from the movie, and some of Kubrick’s other films, plays throughout. 

It must be stated: Most of the theories shared in the movie are major reaches, if not completely wrong. A lot of it sounds like the kind of discussions that take place when drunk college film majors argue about movies late at night in the dorms. 

No, Kubrick did not fake the moon landing, nor was he using The Shining to confess that he was (though that premise did lead to an entire, very entertaining movie called Moonwalkers, in 2015). Kubrick almost certainly was not intending to make the movie about the Holocaust, or the genocide of Native Americans. A scene in which one of the theorists declares that a poster of a skier is actually a minotaur makes little sense; it just looks like a skier. Ditto for the moment in which someone suggests Kubrick put his own face in the clouds during the opening credits. 



I did enjoy the film’s discovery that the design of the Overlook Hotel is physically impossible, and that windows exist in places where they couldn’t possibly be. 

Multiple theorists declare that Kubrick was so meticulous that none of the choices he made could have been an accident; in fact, more likely Kubrick made those choices because he thought it made for a beautiful image. 

But I didn’t really mind any of that, because this is so damned entertaining, and if nothing else, we get to spend 100 minutes looking at beautiful Stanley Kubrick shot compositions. 

As I said in my original review, “would it be hypocritical to say that I loved Room 237, even though I felt like 75 percent of what was said in it was complete hooey?”

I wish Room 237 had led to a whole series, on some streaming service, in which this treatment was devoted each week to a different classic movie. This never happened, although last year’s documentary Lynch/Oz was probably the closest thing that’s ever come to fruition.

I always wondered, though, why Room 237 never addressed the Bear Man: 

In the years since, there has been an ill-advised sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep – although it does have its fans — while Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One had an even more ill-advised sequence when the characters visited the Overlook. I prefer the original, as well as the often-insane documentary that explored it. 

Room 237 is streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto TV. 

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CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

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