A few weeks ago, I went to see a documentary called Room 237 with a few friends. All I knew going into the experience was that it was a documentary about conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining.
SIFF had brought the documentary to the Uptown in Queen Anne and we sat in the back row stealing sips of vodka from a flask. We were, perhaps, the most jovial and flushed audience members. The documentary takes itself too seriously, as did most of the audience at the showing. We, however, found it to be an out-and-out comedy much to the chagrin of the rest of the room.
Let me put it this way: to call Room 237 absurd would be an understatement. It throws every popular conspiracy you can think of into the mix. Everything from faking the Moon Landing to genocide.
The conspiracies in and of themselves were not what made the documentary so hilarious. It was the clues that they chose to prove their points. Minor details like posters on the wall featuring a downhill skier or cans of baking soda and flour with the head of a Native American on the label. It was like they’d found a needle in the haystack and then told you that the haystack was actually the burning bush.
I can’t say that I’d actually recommend seeing Room 237, but what it did accomplish, and I think this is a great takeaway, is that it inspired me to read the book. The source material for the movie, the conspiracies, and all the hoopla.
I’d never read Stephen King. In the pantheon of authors, he’s not normally high on my list of “must reads.” But, I was driven to read Stephen King’s The Shining with an open mind. Obviously, I’m very familiar with the film version and I didn’t want that to sully my experience with the book.
For the most part, the film is a straightforward adaptation. There are adjustments made in the plot, specifically around the ending, that change the overall meaning of the story. Kubrick’s version explores madness and cabin fever, while King’s story explores ghosts, possession, and has a stronger focus on alcoholism.
As a pure experience, I prefer Kubrick’s movie over the book (sacrilege, I know). I think the changes he made make the story more mysterious, frightening, and engaging. But, that’s not to say you should never read the book. It illuminates many parts of the film and helps you see them from a different and more rewarding viewpoint.