LIFF26 - Room 237 - Cinema Review

'On a webpage this information can make for compelling, if anecdotal reading. What the director seems to have failed to grasp is that, as the main constituent part of a one-hundred and two minute film, it does not.'

Browse the trivia page of The Shining on IMDb and you can find all sorts of interesting factoids, omissions and errors. Jack's (Jack Nicholson) typewriter, for instance, changes colour over the course of the film, from white to blue. What does that say to you? Continuity error? Or sign that The Shining is actually Kubrick's attempt to address the holocaust?

If you answered the latter of those two options, then Room 237 is for you. Director Rodney Ascher has assembled an Avengers-esque team of The Shining obsessives, who believe in various theories regarding the film's existence, from the above to the even more outlandish.

On a webpage - IMDb's trivia page, for example - this information can make for compelling, if anecdotal reading. What Ascher seems to have failed to grasp though is that, as the main constituent part of a one-hundred and two minute film, it does not.

Theory after theory is trotted out, sometimes with evidential backup, sometimes with little more than the perpetrator's whim as 'proof'. Ascher skips between them, like someone's eye browsing the trivia page, picking out individual moments before dropping them and focusing on another. Scenes from other Kubrick films add depth but not clarity.

In all the execution is amateurish. Ascher doesn't subject the theories to any critique nor does he allow each participant long enough individually to 'pitch' their reading. The scenes from other Kubrick films add nothing. The sound recording of one participant - apparently done online or over the phone - is noticeably crackly and includes said participant's child screaming in the background.

The argument that Room 237 is not only a slightly madcap view of The Shining but also a glimpse into the lives of film obsessives is demonstrably not true; we never see any of the contributors and the film is lacking that key tour round their home which is done up to look like The Overlook Hotel, with sly shots of their red/yellow Beetle populating the background material.

Ultimately the 'insight' of the film is foiled to such a degree as to make it blunt. It is unlikely to change your world view of what The Shining is about, or anything else besides, and it won't give you a new appreciation of Horror obsessives. What it might do, is send you to sleep, or convince you of the inherent value of the brevity of IMDb trivia pages.

The 26th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 1st November to 18th November at venues around the city. Programming includes several UK premières, the popular Night Of and Day Of The Dead and a selection of competition films in the Official Selection.


  1. There is suppose to be a version of the shining played backwards and forwards overlapped over eachother at the same time. I would love to see that.

    1. Yes, this does cover that actually, towards the end. It's not as interesting as you might think I'm afraid. More than anything I think it's something of a tool to show the cyclical nature of film narratives, more than the hidden meaning in The Shining.