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Room 237



Only the first of these is true. Just don't tell the unseen interviewees of Room 237, Rodney Ascher's extraordinary documentary about all the crazy conspiracy theories surrounding Kubrick's 1980 horror classic, The Shining. You've heard about The Shining, right? It's the film that Kubrick loaded with subliminal messages and made synchronic when simultaneously played forward and backward.

Well, according to these guys, at least. With Ascher using clips from The Shining (and other films, Kubrickian and otherwise; found footage; and a splash of animation) to illustrate their points, the interviewees make for a fascinating collective listen. Of course, that's because Ascher has edited their ramblings skillfully into material intended for mass-audience consumption; if any of these people called you on the phone or cornered you at a party and began shoveling their shtick, you wouldn't be able to make a beeline for the bar fast enough. 

What they present as evidence of their outlandish theories could be done, I think, with virtually any movie with an auteur at its helm. For instance, let's say I want to prove that Martin Scorsese's Hugo is a thinly veiled love letter to NAMBLA. It's not, of course, but I could find enough material to read into; in other words, I don't believe a second of what Room 237's "stars" say, yet I love every minute that Room 237 is. My favorite documentary of last year, it holds as much repeat value for film buffs as Kubrick's foray into horror does for the featured quintet. 

IFC Films' Blu-ray packs it with several intriguing extras. Whereas the 11 deleted scene are disappointing in presentation, there's a commentary by "mstrmnd," arguably the Internet's pre-eminent Shining stratagem scholar who had declined to be part of the picture. What is labeled as a "making of the music" featurette is, for all intents and purpose, a music video — and a cool one at that. 

However, the best bonus finds artist Aled Lewis detailing all the symbols he hid into his poster for Room 237. It's as clever as Ascher's film. —Rod Lott 

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