The Room – the horror, the horror

Written for the work newsletter:

I was invited by a friend, Lindsay, to go and see a 2003 film, The Room at Luna Outdoor. She described it as “everyone’s favourite worst movie” and gave me the link to IMDB for the film. I went straight to the external reviews section to see what the professionals thought. They agreed; it was bad. In fact, it was supremely awful. Having since seen the film, I concur. But you have to go and see it.

The man who wrote the film, Tommy Wiseau, also directed the movie, funded the movie, produced the movie and distributed and promoted the movie. He also played the main character. The Room is the ultimate in vanity productions. The writing is appalling, the acting of all cast members is nowhere near up to scratch, there are subplots that are picked up, played and put down never to be heard of again. In the first 15 minutes or so a character announces she has cancer, and never speaks of it again. There is a random scene where every male in the film wears tuxedos and throws an American football around on the street. The continuity errors are so numerous that if a drinking game was created for them you would have severe alcohol poisoning after the first half hour. The whole film is glorious in its badness, even the camera moves in and out of focus, as if it was trying to get away from the horror.

When The Room was originally released it got such bad reviews that one person, Michael Rousselet found himself sitting in the theatre completely alone for a showing about a week after release. By the end of the film he had called all his friends and told them to come for the next showing. They sat in the theatre and happily and loudly discussed all the plot holes, randomness and the poor acting. The subsequent showings had more and more people come as Michael’s friends all brought their friends and so on. Forcing the standard silent reverential viewing of a movie in this case would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. What makes this film experience is audience participation.

When a character called Denny regularly enters and exits a scene you call “Hi Denny!” or “Bye Denny!” as required. When the camera falls out of focus you yell “Focus!”, conversely when the camera forces you to watch the most horrific and wobbly sex scene you call “Oh God! Unfocus!”. When an actor left the production halfway through filming, his part was not re-shot with another actor, instead his lines in the movie’s climatic final scenes were dumped upon another actor, who was never actually introduced. When this man appears it is customary to shout “Who the hell are you?!”

Most films have establishing shots, to say “this is set in New York/Seattle/London”, and if they don’t have the budget to shoot their own establishing shot footage they use stock footage for these. The Room uses stock footage B roll establishing shots of San Francisco like human beings use oxygen. Every time a shot of San Francisco appears on screen it is customary to yell “Meanwhile in San Francisco!”. When one of these shots pans across the Golden Gate Bridge, you yell “Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!” and if the camera makes it to the other end of the bridge before the film cuts to the next scene there is a rousing cheer.

They were only a few viewings in when one of Michael Rousselet’s friends spotted a set of three framed pictures of spoons (!) on a table in the background of 60% of the shots. Every time it was spotted in shot they yelled “Spoon!” It didn’t take long until they brought in plastic spoons, and threw them at the screen whenever the pictures were spotted. At the viewing I went to, Luna Cinema had at least two 60 litre white plastic buckets filled with spoons for the audience to hurl when required. We still ran out, and had to gather up plastic cutlery from the mass that fast accumulated in front of the screen. If you do go to see the film, sit at the back; there is less chance of potential injury from falling spoons.

There is a full run down of what to say and when to say it handily provided by The AV Club. It’s best to read and prepare yourself for the film. Remember it is a very bad film – arguably the worst in cinema history – and trying to make sense of it will only cause mental harm. It’s best to let it wash over you.

The Room is only occasionally shown at Luna Outdoors, so if this review has piqued your interest, your next chance to see it is on Sunday February 17th at 8pm. Bring spoons.

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