In 1980, Stanley Kubrick, who had earlier created landmarks in the genres of black comedy (Dr. Strangelove) and science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey), released his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Over 30 years later we’re still struggling to unearth its hidden meanings. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative documentary ROOM 237 fuses fact, fiction and speculation through interviews with both fervent fans of the film and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s controversial classic. It comes to Blu-ray and double-disc DVD from IFC Midnight on September 24, 2013. The bonus-filled discs have SRPs, respectively, of $29.98 and $27.98.
Many movies lend themselves to wide-ranging interpretations, but few as rich and mysterious as The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel. In Rodney Ascher’s ROOM 237, we hear from people who have developed complex theories about the film and believe they have decoded the hidden symbols and messages buried in the late director’s unforgettable shocker, in which a family man (played by Jack Nicholson) descends into madness while serving as the off-season caretaker of a deserted old hotel. The Shining received mixed reviews upon its initial release, but over the decades its stature has only grown, with Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese ranking it among the greatest horror films ever made.
Carefully examining The Shining inside and out, and forwards and backwards, ROOM 237 is equal parts captivating, provocative and pure pleasure. It gives voice to the fans and scholars who espouse these theories, reworking Kubrick’s film to match their ideas and intercutting it with layers of dreamlike imagery to illustrate their streams of consciousness. Sometimes outrageous, always engaging, the words of the interviewees are given full force by Ascher’s compelling vision.
An Official Selection at the 2012 Sundance, Cannes and Toronto film festivals, and winner of the Best Director prize at Fantastic Fest, ROOM 237 received a theatrical release by IFC Films in top markets and earned glowing reviews.
“Part of what makes ROOM 237 fascinating to watch and think about (beyond other people’s loopiness) is that it shows how works of art become encrusted with their reception,” wrote Manohla Dargis of The New York Times. “It works like a Kubrickian Da Vinci Code, and it lures you into seeing The Shining as a kind of feature-length Zapruder film,” said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr said, “It’s about the human need for stuff to make sense – especially overpowering emotional experiences – and the tendency for some people to take that sense-making to extremes.”
“[It] may be the surpassingly eccentric – and enormously entertaining – film that Kubrick deserves,” wrote Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal. NPR’s Scott Tobias called the film “a thrilling testament to the fact that art is – and should be – open to interpretation.” Newsday’s John Anderson said, “There’s enough real evidence supporting the theory that Kubrick was a genius, and that’s pretty entertaining all by itself.” And The San Francisco Examiner’s Jeffrey M. Anderson summed up: “ROOM 237 could become an essential companion piece to The Shining from now on. For those who see both, it will be impossible to think about one without the other.”
On September 24, the same day that ROOM 237 arrives on Blu-ray and two-disc DVD, Stephen King will publish Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining. In the new novel, Danny Torrance, the child who escaped his violently insane father at the end of the original book, is now a middle-aged New Englander whose psychic gift of “shining” provides comfort to the dying patients in a nursing home.
Bonus material on the specially packaged ROOM 237 Blu-ray and DVD includes:
* “The mastermind Speaks: Commentary with Kevin McLeod.” McLeod is a key figure in the online examination of Kubrick’s film.
* “Secrets of The Shining,” an hour-long panel discussion from the first Stanley Film Festival, an event at Colorado’s historic Stanley Hotel, which inspired one-time guest Stephen King to write his novel.
* 11 Deleted Scenes
* The Making of the Music Featurette
* Mondo Poster Design Discussion with Artist Aled Lewis
Street date: September 24, 2013
SRP: $29.98 (Blu-ray), $27.98 (DVD)
Running time: 102 minutes, plus extras
Not rated Bonus material: Audio commentary, panel discussion, deleted scenes, music featurette, trailers