Saturday, June 8, 2013

Room 237 (Rhoades)

What Is Hiding
In “Room 237”?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Of all the rooms in the Overlook Hotel, Jack Torrance’s young son Danny is warned to stay away from No. 237. Why?
All you horror fans out there know we’re talking about Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” the 1980 make-you-pee-in-your-pants frightfest based on Stephen King’s bestselling book.
Aside from those folks who wear tin-foil hats and talk about the fake moon landing, there are a number of other conspiracy theorists who see secret messages in books and movies. Many of them study Kubrick’s “The Shining,” looking for concealed truths. Nine of these weird interpretations are examined in a new documentary called (you guessed it) “Room 237.”
The late Stanley Kubrick gave us such masterpieces as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Spartacus,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Lolita,” and “A Clockwork Orange.” “The Shining” was his redheaded stepchild, earning him only a Razzie nomination as Worst Director.
It’s no secret that author Stephen King hated the movie. He felt his novel’s main themes (the disintegration of the family, the dangers of alcoholism) were largely ignored by Kubrick. The two men had vastly different interpretations. As King wrote, “Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones.”
He described Kubrick as “a man who thinks too much and feels too little.” King has been described as having the opposite problem.
While “The Shining” opened to mixed reviews, it has since grown in cult status. “Just as the ghostly apparitions of the film’s fictional Overlook Hotel would play tricks on the mind of poor Jack Torrance, so too has the passage of time changed the perception of ‘The Shining’ itself. Many of the same reviewers who lambasted the film for ‘not being scary’ enough back in 1980 now rank it among the most effective horror films ever made,” writes horror film critic Peter Bracke.
“The Shining” is now considered “an enigmatic and literally labyrinthine masterwork that contains multitudes (of hidden meanings).”
There are many different theories about its coded messages, ranging from a reworking of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, a commentary about the genocide of Native Americans, an examination of the Holocaust, a reference to sexual demonology, even an apology for that moon landing some claim Kubrick helped NASA fake.
Go figure. I’ve seen the film dozens of times and didn’t get any of that.
Now cinematic documentarian Rodney Ascher comes along to help me sort it out. While Ascher doesn’t take sides, he does carefully lay out nine different theories about Kubrick’s hidden meanings within “The Shining.” And he uses an amazing amount of footage from the original movie to make each theory’s points.
“My personal take on it is, for one, I don’t think its nearly as visionary as any one of these folks have found,” says Ascher. “I just see it as sort of a story about juggling the responsibilities of your career and family and as cautionary tale of what may happen if you make the wrong choice.”
That aside, if you’re a fan of “The Shining,” you’ll want to see this illuminating film that’s currently spooking moviegoers at the Tropic Cinema.
Other films occasionally have attracted decoders who examine their supposed “symbolic or subterranean meanings,” among them “Donny Darko,” “Mulholland Drive,” “Inception,” and “Prometheus.” However, “The Shining” stands out, inspiring this cinematic examination found in “Room 237,” one that would impress a real-life Robert Langdon.

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