I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work, and most especially his freakishly uncanny vibe and meticulously crafted tone. Kubrick passed away of a heart attack in his sleep in 1999–four days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut, his surviving family members were placed in charge of his hundreds and hundreds of boxes of still photographs and film reels, to which film maker Jon Ronson detailed in a documentary, called, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, and changed the way I see Stanley Kubrick and his approach to film making.
My older sister used to take me to see scary movies growing up. I was just a kid when we saw a midnight double feature of Creepshow and Altered States at The Davis in Chicago. We’d see movies like, The Amityville Horror, The Dead Zone, Omen, lots of other movies in that dank old movie house, but I was never the same after seeing The Shining, maybe because my brothers and sister still, to this day, taunt me with the line, “come and play with us, Danny! forever…and ever… and ever…” I still cannot watch it by myself and I’ve tried dozens of times.
I have Shining-related souvenirs from The Timberline Lodge. I frequently catch myself humming the music from the ‘gold ballroom scene’ and it never fails to give me the laughy-creeps. So, needless to say, when I heard that they did a documentary called “Room 237” put together by Rodney Ascher– now playing in theaters across the country(are you shitting me?) about The Shining and all the little allegedly subliminal Kubrick messaging in the film that has been talked about for years, I was a little excited, but skeptical, too, because I love The Shining, but don’t really go in for conspiracy theory bullshit.
And I know that Stephen King hated Kubrick’s version of The Shining, but I never let it bother me much. I respect King’s opinion, but it never interfered with my appreciation of the film. But these guys who put this together must have done so with Stephen King in mind because it basically confirms everything he hated about it. It wasn’t King’s story. It was Kubrick’s American Indian tear drop.
There’s a scene where Dick Hallorann, played by the late Scatman Crothers, is driving up the snowy road and he’s driving by a terrible car accident– a gasoline tanker truck has crushed a little red VW Beetle– what some people have long considered an obvious fuck-you to Stephen King seeing as how in the book, the Torrences drive up to the Overlook Hotel in a red VW Beetle, but in Kubrick’s screen version– they’re driving in a yellow VW Beetle!
They highlight brilliantly, playfully, Kubrick’s use of dissolves and cut-a-ways to help their very raw narrative along– that Kubrick was making a movie about the European genocide of Jews, Native Americans, and his part in faking the Apollo Moon landing– and it’s all interspersed with some truly fascinating observations. When Jack is first introduced and shakes hands with Mr. Ullman in his little office, he steps up to the desk in such a way that reveals one of those subliminal Disney boners. Cute. But their observations seem centered around the same sort of stoner appeal that made Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and the Wizard of Oz so affectionately trippy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But even though I know Kubrick likely threw in some subliminal messaging because he was freakishly precise about his takes and has hundreds of boxes filled with stills to prove it– this whole project is somewhere between the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the back of a $1 bill, and therein lies “Room 237.”
There’s a scene at the end of the documentary where they juxtapose The Shining playing over the movie with one running forward and the other running backward. Needless to say, it yielded some pretty cool imagery. If you can get past the idea that Kubrick directed the faking of the moon landing and used The Shining to all but admit to it, using little Danny Torrence, especially– then you might find some redeeming moments, like I did, but you have to wear a mad hatter’s tinfoil hat to endure it. Mine was a snuggly-fit. If you like Stanley Kubrick and liked The Shining for the little things, this was as funny and entertaining as, Shining.