by Matthew Edward Hawkins

A few months ago, Mathew Kumar was in town along with his girlfriend Kate, and we met at Grassroots for drinks plus conversation. When the subject of movies came up, it was crystal clear that we all shared the same love for totally insane and bizarre cinema. The legitimately insane and bizarre that is. Naturally, Karate Ruler and Nothing To Feat was what I had to offer as a talking point, where as those two mentioned something called… The Room.

Now, not to sound like a snob or a jerk or anything, but these days whenever anyone tries convincing me that such and such is the most amazing thing ever, I can’t help be immediately have my doubts right from the beginning, even when its from the trusted individuals. I’m both hard to impress and extremely jaded. And for a while, I didn’t bother to follow-up on their recommendation, despite it being the bargain basement price of $9 on Amazon. The weeks passed, until recently, when I needed to blow just a few extra dollars to qualify for free super saving shipping and all of a sudden I remembered The Room. Once it arrived, I was captivated by the box art, but put it on my shelf, on the big pile of other stuff that I needed to see and play. So a few nights ago, Katie wanted to see a movie, and asked if we could give The Room a shot at last, And we did. And…. wow. Simply WOW.

Once you see The Room, it becomes an immediate obsession, guaranteed. The minute the credits roll for the very first time (btw, the movie is a little under an hour and forty minutes, but times that by at least two, because you’ll either be re-watching certain scenes over and over again, because you won’t believe what you just witnessed, or you’ll flat-out stop multiple times in order to catch your breath), comes the mad dash to the computer, to look for any bit of information as you can, to hopefully find answers to the many “why, why, WHY???”s that comes with the territory. I’ve since discovered that it’s becoming quite the phenomena; for some time now, it’s been slowly developed into the next Rocky Horror Picture Show of sorts in Los Angeles, and there was even a midnight screening here in New York City not too long ago. Celebs, or at least the basic cable variety, have recently discovered this gem, such as Cartoon Network/Adult Swim’s Time & Eric, who recently presented it on April 1st. Quite a few things have been written about it, such as the obligatory write-ups by Entertainment Weekly, The Onion, and IFC. So perhaps I’m late to the party, and my indie credibility is in question, but I’m assuming that not everyone knows about it, plus I simply can’t stop thinking about it. Fun-fact: E3 is going on next month, and number one reason to go? I believe Mathew is going bring the DVD with him, perhaps for screening with fellow game journalists, which interests me more than any Nintendo or Sony press conference ever could.

Well where to begin? Because nothing I say could ever come close to properly conveying the film’s profound absurdity and brilliance, I should perhaps just end it right here and demand that everyone immediately seek The Room out (like I said, it?s less than ten bucks on Amazon). But we go anyways: The Room was written, produced, directed by, and Tommy Wiseau, who is the big and small screen’s greatest enigma of this century thus far. Everything about the man is completely captivating; one reviewer on Amazon summed him up best by describing the guy as “a Cajun, a Croatian cyborg, possibly from Belgium, clearly a product of Denmark, or maybe even not from this world or dimension… all of these things are true at any one moment.” Also worth noting is his long black hair, which makes one believe that he idolized Fabio at one point, perhaps still does, along with his bizarre physique, which is somewhat indicative of a person that has not only used steroids, but abused them as well. As noted, his accent is… impossible to figure out… which makes his peculiar acting style and delivery all the more riveting. There’s so many words to describe it, but “good” is certainly not one of them. Quite a bit of his lines are obviously overdubbed in post production, including the Q&A segment of the DVD believe it or not. Even his attire is ridiculous, with nothing ever fitting, at all.

Anyhow, Wiseau’s tale is that of a guy named Johnny, who lives in San Francisco and shares his apartment with Lisa, his fianc?e. Johnny is madly head over heels for his woman… in fact, very early on, we see them make “passionate” love to each other, in a scene that even Cinemax would be too embraced to show at 2am on a Tuesday. Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual, and after being together for five (or is it seven… one of the MANY mistakes and inconsistencies throughout the film), Lisa’s become pretty bored of the guy, even though he’s everyone else loves him to death. A message that is hammered home hard constantly, though we’re never presented any real rhyme or reason for such an attitude. So Lisa immediately begins banging Johnny’s best friend Mark, who btw is the like the only halfway decent actor of the entire flick. Which is not saying much, but you at least get the sense has a clue; one can tell throughout the movie that he’s internally struggling to figure out what the deal is with his character, and with all the other characters, what the hell is going on, why is he there in the first place, etc. Moving on, Lisa confides in various people of this affair, and not a single soul takes to hearing her cheating ways all that well. So to get theme on her side, she’ll up the ante when needed: instead of him being just boring, Johnny also beats her! But it’s not so much that they can’t fathom the possibility of Johnny being capable of domestic abuse, everyone kinda just doesn’t care. Yet despite her lack of feelings for the guy… and how he supposedly beats her… she still goes through the effort of throwing him a birthday party? Huh?

Along the way we meet all the wacky people in Johnny and Lisa’s lives, who bring with them all these wacky subplots that go absolutely nowhere. Take Denny for example; he’s this “kid” that Johnny loves like his own son. Enough that he pays for his apartment, which is in the same building as Johnny’s. Which perhaps explains why he comes and goes into Johnny and Lisa’s place as he pleases. Still, that’s no real explanation as to why he jumps into their bed as Johnny and Lisa are about to get it on, to “join in on the fun” so to speak, nor why the other two aren’t the least bit offended or creeped out. Later, Denny confides to Johnny that he’s in love with his woman, which also happens to be Denny’s surrogate mother in a certain sense, which again Johnny thinks is totally cool. Huh? Maybe Denny is on drugs? After-all, there’s this scene on the roof where Denny is being confronted by an angry drug dealer, who are disposed off by Johnny and Mark, which leads to what is supposed to be this tear-jerker of a moment with all the principles, that is NEVER followed up on. Then again, this happens a lot. Maybe Denny is just flat-out retarded? Next is Lisa’s friends Mike and Michelle, who also barge into their friend’s place like the wind for the purpose of kinky chocolate play. Why? You tell me. Though they don’t get very far thanks to Lisa’s nagging mother Claudette barging in, who has cancer one minute… and not the next. Nothing makes any sense at all. Like how Johnny flat out does not like to drink, yet he’s sipping booze multiple times. Or how when he begins to suspect Lisa of being up to no good, Johnny decides to use a tape recorder from the 80s to secretly record phone conversations, which despite being technically impossible on multiple levels, does in fact work, even many days after the fact. I’m guessing it was the same tape being used the entire time and at ultra ULTRA slow speed? Or the one scene in which all of the dudes are tossing a football around in tuxes. Was there a wedding rehearsal or something? Again, never explained. BTW, it’s pretty clear from watching Wiseau/Johnny toss the pigskin around that he’s never seen a single game in his entire life.

No words can properly convey the extreme awkwardness and lack of logic when it comes to his performance. All I can do is provide two clips, like this one, where Johnny is angered on moment about being accused of beating his girlfriend, and next moment, not at all. Then we have this, the pivotal scene in which Johnny finally confronts his cheating woman.

It’s not just the nonsensical acting and story; even on a technical level, the movie is an epic fail. Like the constant cut-away shots of the city to always remind you that, yes, you are in San Fran. One in particular is of the Golden Gate Bridge, and apparently one activity that regular audience members love to do at these midnight screening is cheer the shot on, as the camera goes from one end of the bridge to the other. If the end is reach, the they cheers triumphantly. If not, disappointment is strongly voiced. The lighting and the music especially reeks of crappy thesis projects at some art school. The editing sucks, but its the camerawork that deserves a special mention: because Wiseau supposedly “didn’t have enough information” at the time while prepping for the movie in regards to film formats, he shot it in both 35mm AND digital video at the same time. If you watch the behind the scenes portion of the DVD, you’ll get to see this monstrosity of a rig, with both cameras side by side, which explains why virtually every shot is always off when it comes to framing and the such. Though my personal favorite technical WTF is how all the rooftop scenes were shot with green-screen. Which was strange, because the lighting just seemed odd. As in surprisingly realistic. And that’s because the green-screen set-up was created OUTDOORS. What. For those wondering, the budget was a staggering six million dollars, and given its numerous qualities, it’s head scratching to say the least. Where Wiseau got the money from, along with all the other questions, such as how old he is or where he’s from are part of the mystery that not even the actors on the set were able to decipher after eight months of shooting.

So many filmmakers try in vein to create compelling crap on purpose, but nothing replaces genuine cluelessness and dementia. In the end, The Room is this magical thing, practically a fantasy flick; one of the main questions that is asked afterwards is, what in the heck is the title about, what exactly was The Room? That’s being a bit shortsighted and a flat-out silly question. Does anyone believe that even Wiseau knows himself? Yet he assures everyone that everything was deliberate, like the out of focus shots and the unintentional laughs it elicits… it’s supposed to be a black comedy he says. Sure. Then again, who am I to question genius? Whether by design or accident, The Room is a piece that completely defies time, space, and logic. Which in this era of billion dollar budgeted, cgi spectaculars that still miss the mark, is not just a miracle, but a Godsend. Thankfully Wiseau is getting the recognition that he deserves, even if it might not be the type he was looking for initially, and even has a sense of humor about it; he’s now a regular staple at those LA midnight screenings, which are basically intended for the purpose of pointing & laughing, and is even holds Q&As, though no one should expect a straight answer apparently. I would pay anything for the original script that was heavily edited by the actors on the set, which included intensely long speeches and soliloquies. There was also a ton of footage that never made it in the movie that I’d kill to watch. Again, they were at this for EIGHT MONTHS. But delving too deep might possibly explain certain mysteries that are best left unsolved, like the football tuxedo part; again, another thing people do is toss one back and forth during the screening.

The Room is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the absolute greatest bad movies of all time, easily up there with the now legendary Manos the Hands of Fate. It simply has to be seen to be believed, and considering how it’s now building up a massive following, it wouldn’t hurt to be the first on your block to experience this phenomenon in the making. Especially before you get sick and tired of hearing about it on crappy talk shows or being parodied on SNL or Family Guy. Oh, and for those who wish to experience it in a crowd setting, as do I, it’s apparently playing on May 29 at Village East Cinema! For more information, hit the official website.

UPDATE: Here’s a pair of bonus YouTube clips to help deliver the message home! First off, we have the “hi doggie” scene, which is a total fave for most fans, myself included (wanted to pass it along before, but only now was I able to find a decent quality version of it) and by far the most low-energy rampage you will ever witness.

Previous post:

Next post: