Leeds Film Festival 2012 Review: The Shining Extended Cut + Room 237

It seems absurd that in the UK, a cult horror as huge as The Shining gets so few chances for its alternative, 30 minutes longer version to be seen. Unavailable on DVD in Europe and screened once for UK television in a graveyard slot, a cinematic showing of the extended cut is like Christmas morning for die-hard fans. Apart from the rare treat of viewing 30 extra minutes of a horror landmark on UK soil, this print of The Shining is a miracle. The image is clearer than ever, the vivid colour burning out of the screen, and the music sounds incredible, its added clarity unveiling eerier corners of the soundtrack you never previously noticed. As for the US cut itself, fans won't be disappointed with the extra material. Danny's first vision of the bleeding elevator segues into a scene of Wendy and a doctor discussing Danny's mental wellbeing and Jack's violent boozing days. Jack's chat with the shady Ullman is longer, as is Wendy's final act freak-out in the hotel, a Gold Room full of partying skeletons added to her ghostly visions. Dick Hallorann's journey back to the Overlook hotel is also a more drawn-out affair, making his fate all the more shocking. The UK cut of The Shining is like a primed bullet, whereas the US version favours a much slower kill. What's in addition here is almost all unnecessary exposition, but it's a testament to Kubrick's genius that the US cut is still a masterpiece. The film doesn't drag in this longer version but instead gives us welcome extra intimacy with our characters in what has always been a perfectly formed but admittedly cold film. The Shining is regarded by many as one of the greatest horrors ever, in this reviewer's opinion the greatest, and this 142 minute version reveals yet more layers UK viewers previously never knew. Whether you've discovered all the hidden meanings in The Shining depends on your love of the film, but chances are you've got nothing on these guys; if you thought your theory on the film was insane, wrap your blinkers around Room 237. Displaying the most bonkers, whacked-out, there-might-just-be-something-in-it notions (apparently, Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing and was trying to tell us through his film), the people talking here may be mad geniuses. Not just for the theories they've teased from the film, but for realising that, hey, this is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining - you can give any interpretation you like, because no-one can ever really dispute it. Room 237 is like the best DVD extra ever made. Not that that's to diminish director Rodney Ascher's efforts, merely that Room 237 is so specifically dedicated to its one subject and so rich with ideas, it makes a perfect accompaniment to the movie. This is a rare kind of film: made by fans for fans but lacking any kind of bias. Ascher is not presenting the views here as definitive, but neither is he making fun of some of those theories that seem a little far-fetched. But Room 237's main selling point is what makes it even rarer; far from being a simple documentary to tediously pick apart the film and expose truths, Room 237 actually enriches your Shining viewing experience and sends you back to the film with fresh eyes. It reveals depths in a movie already bursting with detail, though you're to recognise from the start this documentary is post-structuralist through and through - you won't find the Kubrick family endorsing the 'hidden messages' revealed in this film as Stanley's. This documentary is just a tapestry of wild thoughts by some people for whom The Shining is not just a hobby, but a quasi-religion, and their wild speculations come across with such passion you're inclined to go along with them, all the way. For anyone with a passing interest in The Shining, Room 237 is a triumph. For Kubrick obsessives it's a must.
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Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the dashing young princes. Follow Brogan on twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion: @BroganMorris1