“Doctor Sleep”: Terms of Psychic Warfare

Doctor Sleep!

“After that night, I could never watch The Tonight Show again.”

I read The Shining during my big Stephen King phase back in high school. devouring nearly all his books from Carrie up through Gerald’s Game. I’ve run across Stanley Kubrick’s version countless times in TV reruns over the years and I think I’ve seen the entire film, but never in one uninterrupted, sequential sitting….though I did catch the 2013 documentary Room 237, which tabulated conspiracy theories about Kubrick’s deep, dark, double-secret meanings with which the film was allegedly fraught if you paid more attention to the backgrounds than to the actors.

Decades later, King returned to the remains of the Torrance family with the sequel novel Doctor Sleep, which I haven’t read. The sequel film it inspired from writer/director Mike Flanagan (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) was escorted surreptitiously into theaters in the middle of an unusually packed November release schedule, then quietly ushered out the back doors, as if it were trying to escape the spotlight before Jack Nicholson came after it with an ax. As we prepare to trudge defensively into this long weekend in which internet folks will be slap-fighting over sequels that cling slavishly to their 40-year-old progenitors, why not pause and pay respects to a sequel that struck a dexterous balance between old confections and new directions.

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“Room 237” Asks: Was “The Shining” About ALL the Things?

Rodney Ascher, Room 237One of my least favorite moments in college was sitting in an intense English class and concentrating on maintaining a straight face while a classmate explained his theory of how the scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Morgue” in which a gorilla stuffs a victim up a chimney somehow, in his mind, represented a return-to-the-womb motif. I have no idea how he thought that related to the rest of the story at all. After the few first few sentences my mind turned to white noise in self-defense.

This evening I had flashbacks to that moment while watching Rodney Ascher’s thought-provoking new documentary Room 237, an examination of hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining. Whether you hated or loved either or both, few would accuse Kubrick of taking a slapdash approach to the project, regardless of the lengthy list of differences between it and the book. Room 237 is narrated by five Shining enthusiasts: ABC News war correspondent Bill Blakemore; playwright/novelist Juli Kearns; author/conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner; history professor Geoffrey Cocks; and Excepter frontman John Fell Ryan. Each one has their own interpretation of the recurring motifs and subliminal imagery buried in the mix, all adding up to a grand design on Kubrick’s part in their minds. The nature of that grand design, though, varies wildly by viewer…very wildly, in this case.

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