Help! I’m in The Room with a Bad Movie Cult!

by Luxi Xu

The Room cover photo.png
The Room, directed by Tommy Wiseau, 2003

Tommy Wiseau baffles the world with a disjointed dialogue and the rough outline of a plot in his ‘masterpiece’ The Room. It makes you wonder what alien planet you have been transported to. Unlike the paintings of Salvador Dalí or the poems of Stéphane Mallarmé, the strong surrealist undertone throughout was tragically unintentional.

I was originally attracted to Wiseau’s film after watching the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show and going through trash cinema icon Sharknado. I had heard whispered rumours about The Room, the mutant child of the two genres. I thought I knew what I was getting into: bad CGI, loose plots, and shouting at the screen in cheerful enjoyment. Right? Wrong.

The Room was written by, directed by, and due to the initial lack of interest, exclusively watched by main actor Tommy Wiseau. After 15 years, somehow it has gained a great viewership outside of the mainstream, with celebrities like Seth Rogen and James Franco adopting it as their guilty pleasure. Screenings across the US are sold out monthly and filled with fans that bond over cruel mockery of the film. Who needs enemies with fans like these?

The cinemas are filled with a distinctive sense of laughing at Wiseau. And as I sat through the most uncomfortable 99 minutes of my life, I could see why. I was hooked, I was part of the cult.

The Room has held its place as the epitome of ‘badness’; it is difficult to resist tearing it apart when Wiseau’s butt cheek flexes on the big screen. Wiseau’s character, Johnny, punctuates every line with a forced chuckle that sounds like a mixture of Chewbacca and Count Dracula. There are a total of 5 painfully long sex scenes that made me desperately want the film to end.

So you must wonder, how did Wiseau blow $6 million on a film that ultimately looks like an amateur soft-core porn shot in your college dorm room? The budget and time spent is not proportional to the final product.

Despite this, I have found myself experiencing this movie again and again. Because simply watching this movie doesn’t do it justice. You must immerse yourself and accept The Room for what it is. Different from the horror movie cult, different from sing-a-long musicals, but plenty to offer nonetheless.

So why is it so attractive?

The pure absurdity of the experience brings the audience closer together and alienates them from Wiseau. It follows Freud’s principles of laughter and humour as the natural initial reaction to the bizarre and unexpected. The Room missed its aim of a romantic blockbuster and falls under the genre of a tragicomedy. Tragic in its production; comic in its reception.

Everything from the clucking chicken imitation to the random framed photos of silverware in the background adds to the magic of the film. There is something strangely endearing about the whole thing. I guess he had me at “Oh hi Mark.”

 

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