Frightfest 2015 Double Feature: The Shining and Room 237

Die-hard fans of Stephen King’s harrowing 1977 novel of the same name will likely disagree but, to many, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining delivers two of the most frightening hours in the history of American horror.

the shining

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an out-of-work writer who is desperately in need of a job, drags his meek wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and eight year-old son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the historic and secluded Overlook hotel where Jack is to act as caretaker for the long lonely winter. The hotel manager warns Jack that some caretakers in the past have experienced some cabin fever as a result of the isolation, resulting in (at least) one murder-suicide. Jack (Torrance), with that famous Jack (Nicholson) grin, assures the manager that this will never happen to him but we as the audience already aren’t so sure. We’ve already learnt from Wendy that Jack has a bit of a temper and once dislocated Danny’s shoulder in an accident that “could have happened to anybody”. What’s worse, Danny has a special ability to see both the past atrocities of the hotel’s history and all all the horrors to come but, despite his frequent chants of “Redrum”, no one will listen.

the shining 2

King famously hated Kubrick’s adaptation of his cherished novel. Kubrick took what was useful from the book and scrapped the rest, in favour of a more surreal, ambiguous, and visceral version of the story. As a fan of the novel, It’s a chilling, exceptionally well-made horror film that so many have embraced over the years and can easily be enjoyed as such. The Shining is most unsettling, however, for those who are willing to dig a little deeper and continue to reflect on the film’s mysteries as it continues it’s work on you.

Which brings me to Room 237, a 2012 documentary by Rodney Ascher about people who have room 237never been able to stop delving into the mysteries and symbolism of The Shining. Six participants share their elaborate theories through voice-over almost entirely over footage of the film. The choice of brands in the pantry, posters on the wall, faces in the clouds, missing chairs, impossible windows, and hidden erections are all under intense scrutiny.

The theories of Room 237 run the gamut from thought-provoking to just plain silly. Some examples you’ll wonder how you yourself could have missed while other are almost painful to see as people who are clearly obsessed seem to be grasping so desparately at straws. So many who were involved in the making of The Shining have insisted that there are no answers to be found in Room 237 but, one way or another, it is sure to change the way you experience Kubrick’s classic.

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19 thoughts on “Frightfest 2015 Double Feature: The Shining and Room 237

  1. Nostra

    It was only till about two or three years ago since I first saw The Shining for the first time and it is a stunning film. Room 237 I’ve seen as well and although I found it interesting the quality of the documentary itself was a bit disappointing.

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    1. Matt Post author

      I actually felt the same way about the documentary. These people have always put a crazy ammount of energy into figuring this stuff out. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call some of them obsessed. So I wanted to hear more about THEM and not just about their justification for their hypotheses. I think this would have been a perfect subject for Werner Herzog.

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      1. Nostra

        Wow, I would love to see that…it would make it an amazing doc! There were moments in this that felt sloppy, like when one of the guys is explaining and is disturbed by someone in his house. That should have been cut out as it just gave it a very cheap feel.

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    1. Matt Post author

      I wanted to know more about these people that have spent so much of their lives obsessed with this movie, searching frame after frame for clues. As for the ending, yeah, Iam not quite sure what’s supposed to have happened. It seems that everyone who dies at the hotel has, in a way, always been there. They are all eternally stuck in that same period in history. The same thing happened with Grady nearly ten years earlier. There are other theories about the ending in Room 237 but I don’t know if I trust any of them.

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      1. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

        The ending definitely hurts my brain. If guests are stuck in time, how did he leave and live his life only to return? It almost suggests reincarnation. Regardless, the descent into madness up to that point is totally compelling. I just reviewed Shining myself for Boobs, Blood & The Beast. I hope you like it, buddy. Happy Halloween!

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      2. Matt Post author

        It’s a tough one, yeah. Another theory suggests a Those Who Forget the Past are Condemned to Repeat It message. That’s not actually Jack Torrance but an ancestor or an alternate version of him in the photo. Evidence of this includes the fact that the Grady that Jack meets in the bathroom has a different first name from the Grady that the hotel manager tells Jack about. Off to check out your review.

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    1. Matt Post author

      So, what did you think? Was it about Stanley Kubrick’s inolvement in the faking of the Apollo 11 footage or about tying everything that’s ever happened in history into one hotel? These are the two prevailing theories in the documentary.

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      1. Matt Post author

        I wouldn’t have either unless I had just sat through a whole documentary that was nothing but a bunch of conspiracy nuts making their cases. I don’t really subscribe to any of their theories but, after watching The Shining again, I have to admit I see parallels with the genocide of First Nations people.
        But yes, whatever hidden meanings The Shining may have, it works mostly because Jack just can’t help being fun to watch.

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