Move Over Rocky Horror Picture Show: The 21st Century Has Its Own Midnight Movie

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September 4, 2012

By Matthew “Gus” Gusul

If I were to re-visit the 2010 version of myself he would never believe that in two short years, he would be writing an article about Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. In 2010, when I was first forced to watch the movie by my wife and brother-in-law, I assumed (and hoped) I would never watch The Room again. It is a terrible movie. It has very little merit as a piece of art. If someone set out to intentionally make the worst film ever, they would fall short in comparison with this movie. In my opinion, everyone involved in the creation of this work should be forced to sign a decree commissioned by the government, monarchy, papal office, or some Hollywood higher power that all parties involved will never again, under any circumstances, engage in another artistic endeavor in their lives and to do so would be criminally and artistically negligent.

The Room is written, directed, produced, and starring Tommy Wiseau. Hmmm. Warning signals go off at this point. It is the story of a man who is in love with a woman who cheats on him with his best friend. He discovers the affair and the audience sees his world unravel. “Everyone betray me. I am sick of this world.” Also, the movie features a number of sub plots that are briefly introduced and go nowhere. There are major holes in the plot, long pointless panoramic views of San Francisco, characters inexplicably entering and exiting the story, a game of football played in tuxedos in a back alley, and as far as I can see, no reason why anyone should watch it.

Against my better judgment, my wife and I attended The Room at Cinecenta on the University of Victoria campus on a Saturday in late January 2012. I knew little of what to expect going to this movie. All I knew was that the movie was terrible and that we needed to bring plastic spoons. I went with a sense of dread, but I was surprised at my experience. I had fun and my eyes have been opened to a 21st century cultural phenomenon.

It was a packed house filled with over 150 weirdos, nerds, and innocent bystanders (like me), corralled in by the freaks (like my wife) who enjoy this movie. Many of them were dressed like characters from the movie and playing catch with a football. This cult even has its own greeting, borrowed from the movie. Instead of saying hello to each other, the greeting of choice was “Oh hai, Marc”, a quote from the movie. Okay? …The movie started and we quickly learned some of the rituals of audience behaviour. Every time a character would inexplicably exit the scene, the audience would yell, “But you just got here!” During the long panning shots of the San Francisco skyline the audience would yell, “Go! Go! Go!” until we were returned to the action of the film. At several points in the movie, audience members threw plastic spoons at the screen and yelled “Spooooooooooooons!” It took some time to sort out what was going on, but I eventually realized there was a framed picture of a spoon in the main room of the house where the couple lives together. If you see the picture – yell and throw. Throughout the entire show people yelled or booed or cheered at the film, except one scene that takes place in a flower store. At the beginning of the scene, people in the audience shush everyone. The audio and video are not in sync and the audience finds humor in this poorly executed editing. This moment highlights the delight the audience finds in this poor quality film.

This phenomenon is not unique to Victoria. It has been happening since 2003 all over North America, and is just starting to enter Europe. Originally, The Room was released as a drama. Audience members started showing up to screening to mock the movie, and creator Tommy Wiseau changed the film’s listing to dark comedy. Now this movie has drawn a cult following that has made it a full-fledged movement complete with Internet memes, YouTube videos, and merchandise. The beauty of this phenomenon is the community created by moviegoers and fans who attend, not to celebrate brilliance as is often the case, but to celebrate poor quality; the epic fail that the movie represents. This movie is something we can all excitedly boo.

Perhaps this says something of a generation and of 21st century art culture. We have been wowed in so many ways. How many times has a masterpiece been crafted for cinema? All of us can name titles of tens, if not hundreds, of excellent films. The new generation has proclaimed that it enjoys poor quality art, giving rise to 21st century art culture, one that enjoys celebrating and making light of the shortcomings of The Room.

This is a phenomenon that will not go away. Trust me, I checked with the 2020 version of myself on this one. If you haven’t done it yet, go see this movie. If you don’t, you will be left wondering what all these weirdos, nerds, and innocent bystanders are laughing about.

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