Which to watch first?
December 26, 2013 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Should I re-watch The Shining before watching Room 237, or vice versa?

As a fan of Stephen King novels and at least an appreciator of Stanley Kubrick films, I've always been disappointed by my reaction to The Shining. On previous viewings, I've found it boring and overlong. Not overlong in the way that Full Metal Jacket or 2001 take a scene and stretch it forever and make you feel all the feels and think all the thinkings but in overlong in the why is Jack Nicholson still making faces at me and Shelley Duvall kind of sucks too kind of way.

Obviously, I'm entitled to my opinion, but I think that it comes from a place of ignorance. There has got to be something that I'm missing about the movie and I'd like to figure out what it is and appreciate it properly. Maybe I'll still hate it, but at least I will have tried.

I have heard nothing but good things about Room 237, and it's on Netflix, and it's Christmas vacation so I'd like to give it a viewing. However, it's probably been a decade since the last time I watched The Shining all of the way through. I know the plot (such that it is, AMIRITE?) well enough, and I think I remember the main scare points (Here's Johnny, blood flood, creepy girls, etc.).

The question: How familiar do you have to be with The Shining to appreciate Room 237? I feel like I'd appreciate The Shining more after seeing the documentary, but don't want to waste viewing time on a documentary that will go over my head.
posted by sparklemotion to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Definitely 237 first, if you already say the Shining at least once. Funny, I did the same about a week ago. I watched 237 first and it really allowed me to look out for specific parts when I rewatched the movie again. Some of the opinions are a bit far fetched, but I thought a good amount of the commentary were interesting and it allowed me to not only see a whole different parallel story but also his reasoning to deviate from the original novel.
posted by brinkzilla at 12:35 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Room 237 is pretty well supported with clips from the film. But honestly, it went from "mildly interesting" to "oh I walked away, is that film still on?". YMMV of course.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:36 PM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It's definitely worth a watch! I just watched Room 237 about a month ago, and it's been a good 15 years since I watched The Shining. The documentary includes lots of footage and visuals, so it's plenty easy to follow, although I do have the urge to re-watch both.

Even if you haven't watched The Shining at all, it's still a good watch. There are no certainties, no conclusions. Because Kubrick was so deliberate a filmmaker, the details folks find in this movie seem to substantiate any theory. It's brilliant and a testament to his skill.
posted by mochapickle at 12:36 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've never seen the Shining but I enjoyed Room 237.
posted by bleep at 12:39 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd not see Shining in years when I watched Room 237 but it did not seem to matter - the doc gives you a lot of context, clips from the orig film etc
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:09 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Room 237 is pure silliness. Enjoyable and I recommend watching it but I don't remember any of it being plausible. Which was a shame because it did point out all sorts of inconsistencies and continuity issues that might have had interesting explanations but these weren't them.

So I don't think Room 237 will help you understand anything about the film or find new ways to appreciate it, but maybe their enthusiasm for The Shining will be contagious.
posted by bfootdav at 1:11 PM on December 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I didn't make it through 237, but I could watch Shining over and over again.

I'm not the only one.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:11 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing fine to watch Room 237 without first rewatching The Shining. The various perspectives presented wander the critical gamut from basic beanplating to full-on crazypants, and they're nicely supported with clips. Also, if you haven't already noticed the part where teeny-tiny Jack mouths the lyrics to "Pirates of Penzance" while riding a chariot after a herd of lemurs in the hedge maze, you won't until it's pointed out in 237.
posted by cupcakeninja at 1:19 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You don't need to watch it again before. The film does a good job of showing you what the talking heads are taking about. I did, however, really enjoy watching The Shining again after seeing Room 237. Particularly if you have your own interpretation of the film you will really like hearing the different ones presented in the film.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:27 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You'll be okay without the rewatch. You should definitely be aware that the documentary is weird as hell and has some tin foil moments that make you doubt that anything they say is at all valid.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:27 PM on December 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

We watched Room 237 without having seen The Shining in yoinks, so you'll be fine.

It was hilarious and crazy and it makes me happy that there are such people in the world.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:49 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you didn't think there was much to The Shining, my guess is you're going to think Room 237 is a colossal waste of time. I couldn't watch past the point where he was trying to prove that a barely-visible, grainy artifact in the aforementioned river of blood held some deeply hidden secret meaning. Room 237 isn't going to help you discover what The Shining is all about. It was made by another poor schmuck who couldn't figure out what it was about either, but evidently went off the deep end trying to make sense of it.

I can't begin to imagine how an artist like Kubrick reacts to such silliness. I wonder if the Beatles actually listened to any of their albums backwards, to see if they could fathom what the whackos were hearing.
posted by dinger at 2:15 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the clips give enough context to the theories that even someone who hasn't seen The Shining, but has been exposed to cultural references to it over the years, would still appreciate it. As someone who doesn't love the film and has only seen it once as a kid and once several years ago, I still enjoyed the documentary just to see how obsessive other people get over it. As dinger says, I don't think Room 237 reveals any actual deep insights into the film so much as it explores how people project their own obsessions onto it, or use it as kind of an intellectual puzzle game in ways it (probably) was never intended to be.

One of the segments in the documentary has to do with interesting juxtapositions that happen if you run the film forwards and backwards at the same time (superimposed). There's a torrent out there of a fan edit of The Shining where someone does exactly that. I think it's called The Shining Forwards and Backwards.
posted by Mo' Money Moe Bandy at 2:30 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you haven't watched The Shining in a very long time, then I think it would be more interesting to watch that first, just to see how your personal perspective on it might have changed as you've gotten older, without any interference from the ideas presented in Room 237. But as others have already said, re-watching the movie isn't necessary for fully appreciating the documentary, so if you're not looking forward to watching it again then there's really no need for it, neither before nor after.
posted by sam_harms at 3:09 PM on December 26, 2013

There seems to be a pretty common theme in this thread that those who did not care for the documentary tended to believe it was supposed to be an explanation of The Shinning. I can understand that. But I approached the documentary as being about the conspiracy theory like interpretations that exist in the fandom. If you think of it as a nature documentary about weirdos it is awesome. If you are looking for Kubrick telling you what it is all about, you will be disappointed.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:46 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just watch the doc. It's much more interesting than The Shining, at least until the faked Moon landing section, which you can skip. For boring Kubrick, gimme Barry Lyndon.
posted by Scram at 4:12 PM on December 26, 2013

As a fan of Stephen King novels and at least an appreciator of Stanley Kubrick films, I've always been disappointed by my reaction to The Shining. … Obviously, I'm entitled to my opinion, but I think that it comes from a place of ignorance. There has got to be something that I'm missing about the movie and I'd like to figure out what it is and appreciate it properly. Maybe I'll still hate it, but at least I will have tried.

I disagree with your conclusion about your disappointment coming from a place of ignorance - plenty of people who love the novel were disappointed with Kubrick's version, including King himself, and it wasn't from cinematic ignorance. The movie is missing the heart of the book, which is Jack's alcoholism, his horror at repeating the cycle of abuse of his wife & son. I don't think there's any sense in the movie of real love between the characters before the hotel starts messing with them, so while it may be a cinematic masterpiece, or visually terrifying, it just doesn't do it for me. I can't imagine any analysis/commentary that would make me a fan of the movie on the emotional level that I am of the book.

(I've never seen Room 237, but from what I've heard I agree with those above who say there's no need to re-watch The Shining first.)
posted by oh yeah! at 4:41 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Room 237 is about people watching The Shining, not really about the movie itself. Any relevant scene is given ample footage from the movie, and if anything a recent rewatch might make you argumentative with voices in the doc instead of just enjoying their frequently out-there perspective. If anything, Room 237 puts you in the mood to develop your own crazy theories afterward and might make you want to rewatch it.
posted by Schismatic at 4:45 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Shining and THE SHINING are two remarkably different objects and if you love one, you're bound to be disappointed in the other if you're expecting a stronger interpretation/connection. ROOM 237 is solely about people's reactions to the movie.

I am in the camp of people who've obsessively watched THE SHINING over the years with my own theories and, sadly, I was rather disappointed with ROOM 237. It plays a lot of the theories for comedy rather than treats them seriously - and didn't involve any investigation into whether any of them were plausible. It's like, "Look at these cranks." (And as a crank myself about the film, I think they missed some of the more important analyses of the film in order to put some really wacky ones in to make it entertaining.) This isn't an analysis of symbology, but anecdotes about people trying to understand symbols.

All that to say you can watch it without rewatching THE SHINING either before or after. It will not give you a deeper appreciation of the film.

You will, however, want to see "THE SHINING backwards and forwards" - which I did right after and I deeply enjoyed (for about half of it, because, seriously, the same scenes overlap).
posted by Gucky at 8:58 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My perspective on ROOM 237 was that it was a deeply troubling movie about severely crazy people. It was about going down the rabbit hole. I could not wait for it to be over.
posted by musofire at 11:21 PM on December 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the input all. I especially appreciated the warnings about the crazy factor. I watched Room 237 last night, expecting more I Think We're Alone Now than actual critical viewing and was not disappointed. My husband, who walked in 5 minutes in and did _not_ get the warning walked out not long after the moon landing stuff. Eesh.

While it didn't tell me what I was missing, it did tell me about some of the kinds of things that I was missing so I can be better on the lookout the next time I watch the movie. I'm going to look now for some more critical (not crackpot theory based) writings on The Shining and Kubrick's work in general.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:11 AM on December 27, 2013

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