Review: Room 237 (2012)


I read The Shining as a tween in the 1970’s, in its first paperback run. Its cover was made of mylar (“shining” .. get it?), and the back blurb promised it was “SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING JACK NICHOLSON” — an image I carried throughout the genuinely scary read. [Side note: I mentally cast Scatman Crothers as Halloran, all on my own, years before the film came out.] Having been well and truly haunted by Stephen King’s novel, I was perplexed and disappointed by the Kubrick film when it finally came out in 1980 (I had re-read the novel several times by then). But over the years, I realized that the Kubrick version was doing some haunting of its own, drawing me back to repeated viewings and heated discussions of its complexity.

The first paperback edition of 'The Shining'

Room 237 is an exegesis of this haunting effect, told by an assortment of obsessive fans. Their theories are alternately schizophrenic (e.g. the film is Kubrick confessing that he helped fake the moon landings) and plausible (e.g. it’s a comment on the Native American genocide). But the interpretations are never boring, even the most outlandish stretches. The stretchiest of the stretches has got to be the “run-it-backwards-and-forwards-at-the-same-time” theory, which is just a warmed-over version of the “play ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ alongside ‘The Wizard of Oz'” epiphany, well-known to stoned teenagers everywhere.

I was surprised that the ‘gold standard’ interpretation of the film, recently noted by io9, didn’t make the kavalcade of krazy theories. But don’t worry, this excellent documentary will give you plenty to chew on. If you’re like me, it will force you to overthink it all, then look in the mirror and ask “who’s the real OCD film freak? Could it be me?!?

A Stake in the Heart of the Emo Vampire

"The Strain" book jacket

Guillermo DelToro and Chuck Hogan’s novel The Strain reclaims the vampire mythos from the fangless, flowery teen romance it has become with the Twilight stories, and does so with excessive, gory relish. About time!

The Strain — the first of an epic, apocalyptic trilogy — puts a stake through the heart of the sexy vegetarian vampire made popular by Twilight, and gets us back to what was so creepy about vampires in the first place: they are the undead. They are hijacked human forms, and their hunger is not sexual — it’s the “red-in-tooth-and-claw” variety that makes nature wild, ugly and terrifying.

Many of the novel’s tropes are familiar from post-modern vampire lore: vampirism is a disease (as in Blade); ancient tribes of the undead in league with human co-conspirators (as in Underworld); high-tech vampire-hunting techniques (as in… you get the idea). It also has much in common with the sprawling scope of Stephen King’s The Stand. But the familiarity of these narrative devices do not take away from the scary fun of the book, which you’ll plow through like a bag of potato chips.

But I’ll say it again: the best thing about this book is that it sounds a death knell for the sexy vampire, who has been annoying true horror fans since the reign of Anne Rice. Strigoi!

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O.J. and the Banality of Evil

If I Did It book jacket

If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer

  • Author: Goldman Family
  • Year: 2008
  • Publisher: Beaufort Books
  • ISBN: 0825305934

I felt a little dirty when I checked O.J. Simpson’s “[If] I Did It” from the library, but I just had to see how this weird, “non-confession confession” played out.

This was the manuscript that Harper Collins was going to publish, but withdrew after public outrage. The text was repeatedly checked over and approved by the killer himself, so it truly reflects his warped view on the whole affair.

He comes across as whiny, narcissistic and completely out of touch. He paints himself as an earnest guy trying to be mature with his increasingly crazy estranged wife — he never laid a finger on her, etc. etc. She was getting out of control, he was worried about the kids…

He yammers on like this forever, until we get to the “night in question”, where he does indeed confess, but only after declaring that the description was “hypothetical”. He makes the jump from concerned goodguy to psychotic knife-murderer with jarring celerity; it’s obvious he left out many of the details that led to the brutal slashing. He leaves out the actual physical details of the massacre, claiming that he blacked out. He awakened from this lost time to discover he was covered in blood and holding the weapon… the corpses laid out horrifically near him.

Simpson claims that he was accompanied by someone (called “Charles”), that he couldn’t have done it alone. But “Charles”‘s weird, last-minute appearance in the narrative feels completely grafted; I suspect he is an invention of O.J.’s designed to deflect blame. (The ghostwriter felt the same way.)

Throughout the whole creepy story, O.J. is more worried about his image than his kids, and pathetically tries to elicit sympathy from the reader. He fumes over tiny inaccuracies in press reports and rails throughout about how wrong they all got it — they were calling him a serial abuser! Can you imagine that?!? Hey, I may have beheaded my wife, but the police were only called to the house TWICE, not six times…! It was this last inaccuracy that gave him the courage to put down the gun and not shoot himself during his Bronco escape. He wanted to fight to salvage his reputation, presumably so his kids will have the *precise* stats for his wife beating career.

He ends the book breezily, in essence saying (I paraphrase, of course) “hey, crimes of passion, eh? Funny old world, funny relationships, me and Nicole were one of the funniest…” He wants you to know he really loved that woman he killed.

As for the man he killed, he seemed pretty indifferent. Wrong place, wrong time — shit happens!

I felt less dirty after reading the foreword by the Goldman family, which describes their 15 year fight to get O.J. to pay up the $38 million he owes from the wrongful death suit. The Goldmans were able to prevent Simpson from profiting from the book; the proceeds go to their foundation rather than to a shady legal entity set up by O.J..

So read the book without guilt, or check it out from the library if you feel uncomfortable “monetizing” sensational crimes (I felt that way about “Disco Bloodbath” — something of a cottage industry sprung up around that ugliness).

Jonathan Harker’s Blog


Whitney Sorrow has struck upon the brilliant idea of posting the novel Dracula in blog format — each post corresponds chronologically with the journal entries and letters that make up the classic book.

Get over there now, it’s just getting started… May 7th is an early entry!

Link: Dracula “Feed”

Will Smith Must Be Stopped

Enough already from Will Smith, whose goody-two-shoes schtick is so tiresome and nauseating. He should be run off the screen for trying to sell that latter-day Jimmy Stewart-wannabe horseshit, over and over again.

What pushed me over this edge was learning that the Fresh Prince is producing a remake of “The Karate Kid”, starring one of his god-awful precocious offspring as Daniel-san (renamed “Dre” to provide the bland Disney-ghetto cred that Smith invented). But it doesn’t stop there — Jackie Chan will be playing Mr. Miyagi.

We should be concerned about the possibility of a Smith dynasty in Hollywood. Its bland horrors could stretch over generations, just like the Bushes….

[Hat tip to FILMDRUNK for breaking the awful, awful news.]