Room 237, Directed by Rodney Ascher
Highland Park Classics, March 29, 2013 (US)
Featuring: Buffy Visick, Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and John Fell Ryan
September 27, 2013. 7:32 PM. He shakes away a word in his head
focussing instead on a number: 33. The quick calculation is startling. It had been 33 years—couldn’t be/it was—since he saw Kubrick’s The Shining at the tender age of 12.
At the Timber Ridge apartments located at the foot of Rocky Mountains in Boulder, a door slams floors below just as he and the wife agree to watch Room 237. Although the sound of a door slamming can no longer be called uncommon, it never ceases to be less jarring than the time before or the time before that.
She doesn’t have to say it. He knows what she is thinking. The slamming is accusatory, and of course, blatantly rude. His attempts at playing devil’s advocate are useless: What if there is no thought process behind it at all and they just happen to close doors harder than most folks? Nonsense! She insists that each door slammed is a retaliatory missile fired in response to something they had done although she has no idea what that could possibly be—they were perfectly cordial to all of their neighbors, even to the standoffish Watsons and the downright impossible O’Reillys.
No ifs, ands, buts about it: Frank married a conspiracy theorist. And because he learned long ago not to stand in the way of a hound dog on a trail, Frank rarely challenged his wife anymore. Tonight, her frazzled look over the latest perceived affront pushes Frank to go for a second (third) Blanton’s, the caramel smooth bourbon with the horse and jockey cork on top. Frank still did not dare tell a soul about the surreal night he witnessed the cork topper horse’s legs begin to move, trotting in place in slow motion—freaky deaky—atop the stubby round bottle. It was the night he finally acknowledged to himself he either had a drinking problem or he was just plain losing his mind. Siding with the former, Frank quit drinking for good, a proclamation later amended to mean quitting Blanton’s for good. It wasn’t his fault that he later stumbled upon an unbelievable sale of the shit. They were practically giving it away. Thank you, Lloyd. Don’t mind if I do.
The word keeps popping into his head but he refuses to go down that road, chasing ghostly imprints through the cobwebs of his subconscious. Although he doesn’t know what the word means, he assumes it is another premonition. But really, his only care at the moment is topping off his cocktail. He looks down at the bar cart that he and the wife bought a few months ago at an antique shop outside of Aspen. The mirrored top shelf reflects multiple brands of silver tequila as well as an even greater selection of his favorite whiskeys. The bottom tier holds things he never touches, like gin, rum, and an assortment of odd liquors kept on hand to accommodate guests.
It is when he picks up the Blanton’s from the mirrored shelf that he sees in the resulting opening a reflection of a word
written on the ceiling in red lipstick or is it blood? He looks up at the ceiling and sees the word written backwards
and then something catches his eye, a flash, and just like that, he and the wife are sitting in the dark on the couch directly in front of their 50-inch Sony LED, looking like they are ready to be poltergeisted into the set. A movie begins with a disclaimer about Stanley Kubrick.
The DVD player display shows the word PLAY in red and Frank makes an immediate connection to the word on the ceiling and it sends a shiver down his spine. He suddenly gets a creepy feeling that they are no longer alone here and he begins to wonder who actually started the DVD player anyway because he doesn’t think it was him and his wife doesn’t even know how to work the damned thing.
Twenty minutes into the film, Frank begins to fidget uneasily. He cannot shake the feeling that he and the wife are not alone, but he convinces himself that he is being paranoid. At the same time he is thinking how crazy it is to be watching a film about interpreted hidden meanings in Kubrick’s The Shining. As if his life isn’t already chock-full of conspiracy theories with the wife and all her crazy ideas about the neighbors, television shows, the government, her boss, even the freaking mailman who she claims routinely skips delivery to them a few days a week because of something they (Frank) must have done.
One of Room 237’s faceless speakers points to subliminal messages he sees in The Shining as symbols of the horrors of genocide of Jews and Native Americans. Of all the theories, Frank thinks this is most compelling and well-supported and makes him view the film’s famous elevator of blood scenes in an entirely different light now although at the same time, he knows the image will always be connected to the enormity of how it played out on the big screen when he was a scared shitless wide-eyed kid.
Maybe it is the Blanton’s blurring the lines, but the film historians or fanboys and fangirls begin to seem more and more convincing with each passing clip (gulp). Franks contemplates how it is certainly more enjoyable to listen to their crazy theories than to have to hear his wife Wendy (Brenda) go over her suspicions about why the neighbors below secretly hated their presence at The Overlook (Timber Lodge). Seriously though, Wendy, (Brenda, whatever) had tried his last nerve years ago. He even had a dream once that … well, when he awoke he realized in short order that the butcher knife he was clutching wasn’t really there at all and the wife was still snoring safely beside him. He hadn’t harmed her at all.
He couldn’t wait to watch The Shining again.