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The Room

So. Last night, in my continuing quest to Get The Hell Out Of The House, I went to the Plaza Theater to witness their monthly showing of The Room. I met up with froofie and her friends gypsyariana and missy_carter and they sat with me as I survived one of the worst films I have ever seen in my entire life.

Now, for me, that's saying something. I own the uncut, unriffed version of Manos: The Hands of Fate on DVD. I have an Ed Wood box set. I show up regularly at Cineprov. I know from bad movies.

The Room is an extra-special level of badness. It was the kind of badness that had me clinging to froofie's shoulder as I curled up in my seat and whimpered "It hurts, it hurts, oh, God, it hurts . . ." It was indeed the cinematic equivalent of a car crash--so horrifying you couldn't look away. And yet there was something oddly compelling in its sheer ineptitude. I see it as an exquisite example of what I call "Folk Art Cinema"--films that are made with the materials at hand, not made very competently but are imbued with a certain spirit by their auteurs, folks who wanted to make movies, gosh-darn-it, and weren't going to let a little thing like not knowing what the hell they were doing to stand in their way.

Tommy Wiseau now joins Ed Wood and Hal P. Warren in the annals of Folk Art Cinema. The man can neither write, act nor direct, but he raised six million dollars, paid for the studio time and did it anyway. The Room is a vanity press novel rendered as a film--vapid cliches crudely executed with a childlike simplicity that veers into the surreal.

What intrigues me about The Room is that, unlike other fine examples of Folk Art Cinema like Manos and Plan Nine, there are no fantastic elements--no aliens, zombies or catatonic cults. I wonder if that might be one of the reasons it was especially painful. Consider--in Plan Nine, for example, your disbelief already needs to be sufficiently suspended to accept the existence of flying saucers over Hollywood and animated corpses. Since your brain has already bent a bit to accommodate those elements, the cardboard tombstones and awkward dialogue are not nearly as much of an assault on the senses. The Room, however, is a purely contemporary relationship drama, and so all the breaks with reality are that much more apparent and jarring. (Plus, the acting and dialogue, if you can believe it, are infinitely worse than Plan Nine. I am not kidding.)

Fortunately, screenings of The Room come with an entire audience of people who are willing to laugh, yell snarky remarks and literally throw things at the screen. (Plastic spoons, which I shall have to make a point of bringing next time.) Since the phenomenon is fairly new, it doesn't have the scripted rigidity that screenings of Rocky Horror have devolved into--if you come up with something clever, you can shout it, and if the audience likes it, you'll get a laugh. (I wailed "I can never unsee that!" after the first, erm, "love scene.")

If you can't find a theater doing a screening of it, it is rentable on DVD, but I strongly recommend you only show it with a large group of people who can help share the pain. A few stiff drinks would probably help as well.

Today I took pleasure in reading a thoughtful online conversation.

Today I learned what the hell poutine was. (French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.)



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, The Room is a CULT unto itself here in L.A. And there's a big billboard on, um, I think it's Fairfax, that Tommy's been paying for for years now that lists the showings & such. It's like he genuinely believes that the screenings & cult following is something of a tribute to his awesome auteur filmmaking skills & he's the next Fellini or something.

It's AWESOME. Except in all the ways it's horrifying. *g*
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I read about the billboard when I hopped online afterwards (as missy_carter correctly predicted I would do) just to find out where the hell did this piece of shit come from. The fact that he changed his marketing to call it a "black comedy" means he still has no fucking clue why people are laughing at him.
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
I remember the first time I saw it, I had no idea what it was for, so I asked Trace & she filled me in on the phenomenon. Good times, man. *g*
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
Have you actually seen it? Or have tales of its horror been sufficient to scare you off?
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
Oh no, I'm not that brave. *g*
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
I don't know what's worse...

Finally seeing that movie, or finally eating Poutine.

I'd assume that a MST3K gal such as yourself would be manning the barricades (or womanning), not hiding behind froofie. After all - it's not like her immunity to this film can protect you!


Does it have to be a spoon, or can it be a spork. You could use it to gouge your eyes out if things get too crazy....
Oct. 28th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
Re: I don't know what's worse...
I didn't actually eat Poutine, I just found out that it existed and what it was made of.

I'd assume that a MST3K gal such as yourself would be manning the barricades (or womanning), not hiding behind froofie. After all - it's not like her immunity to this film can protect you!

Oh, I thought that, too. I thought, heck, I've seen Manos, I just saw The Demon Lover last week, how could this be any worse?

I had no idea. Clearly. None whatsoever.

It does have to be a spoon. (There's a framed picture of a spoon in the living room where the bulk of the action takes place. Why? Who cares. When it shows up, people throw spoons at it.) And don't think I wasn't tempted to use the things to gouge my eyes out anyway after the second or so of the 'love scenes.'
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 28th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
I really did think for a while there that you were going to have to get up and leave!

I was determined not to let it defeat me. ;)

I think the audience loved you being there last night! You were so true to your reactions.

After the show, somebody told me "You have to come here every month!" I may take him up on that, now that I have a clearer idea of what I'm in for.
Oct. 30th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
Speak of the Devil...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )