Considering we’re all about celebrating the best and boldest in London’s cinema experiences, it seems a little bit insane that we’re yet to talk about The Room.
Backed by arguably one of the biggest and most devoted followings of any movie ever, the words ‘cult hit’ don’t even get close to describing just how wide reaching the fan love for this film is. And there’s an incredibly simple explanation as to where this overwhelming level of support actually comes from: it’s terrible.
Like, really, really terrible. Unfathomably terrible. In fact, even if you went completely out of your way to make the worst film possible, sabotaging yourself at every possible corner by chopping lines in half and cutting out entire essential sub-plots – hell, even if you drenched the entire finished print of the film in yoghurt and left it literally unwatchable – you still wouldn’t end up with something as blindingly god-awful as The Room is. But the result is without doubt, one of the most crowd-pleasing cinema experiences imaginable.
A little history lesson might help explain things a bit more. The Room is basically just the overworked internal ravings of a mysterious individual named Tommy Wiseau (little is known of his background or where his insanely bizarre fractured European accent actually comes from), who wrote, produced, directed and stars in the movie, as an act of what appears to be pure vanity. Having self-funded the entire thing back in 2001, Wiseau spent several years making a film that’s essentially about a very kind and well-loved man (played by who else but Wiseau himself) who’s cheated on by his emotionless fiancee and “cool-guy” best friend.
From the cheese-fest script to the thoughtlessly designed cinematography (shot on both film and digital at the same time because Wiseau genuinely didn’t know the difference), it’s packed with everything from clueless self-praise written in fractured English, to some of the most horrific sex scenes this side of a 70s porn film. All of which seem to linger for a seriously uncomfortable amount of time on Wiseau’s own naked body. And the crowds absolutely adore it. In fact, it might be one of the funnest movies you ever see in a cinema, and here’s why.
Although the tradition itself actually started across the pond in Los Angeles many, many moons ago now, more recently The Room has made its way to London, with regular showings at Leicester Square’s own cheap-and-cheerful Prince Charles Cinema. And these screenings are about as interactive as you’re ever going to get in a packed-out theatre of cinemagoers. Instead of sitting in silence, squirming at every tin-eared line of dialogue and brazenly over-sexed plot twist, you’re actually encouraged to shout back at the screen, just like you would in a roomful of friends. People get really into it, hurling everything from insults, to verbatim quotes and even handfuls of plastic cutlery (it’s a cult thing that’ll make a lot more sense when you’re actually there) at the screen. It’s unlike any other cinema-going experience around; weirdly liberating.
Even though I’d seen The Room a whole bunch of times before I took the leap to seeing it on the big screen at the Prince Charles, it couldn’t be more different. Not only did the energy of the room itself (no pun intended) somehow make things even funnier than they were before, it was so freeing to actually be able to stand up and express myself in the middle of a film. Going to the cinema can be such a transcendent and involving personal experience, it feels totally bizarre to be breaking the rule of silence; it’s almost wild, taboo.
Once a year (usually around February/March) Wiseau himself even pops over to mumble his way through some seriously hasty Q&As, and sell some of his own self-made merch (including, I shit you not, Wiseau-branded underwear), which just adds to the craziness of the whole experience. Last time he was in town, he insisted on showing off a trailer for his new movie, but then proceeded to make strange noises through a microphone all the way through it, and went on to propose to several different people on stage straight after. He’s probably one of the most unusual people in the film industry full-stop, a man who’s somehow fostered one of the wildest cinematic night-outs London has to offer, and done so almost entirely by accident.
If you see even just one film on the big screen in London, make it The Room. No high-brow tastes or BFI membership required. Just a sense of humour, and probably a stiff drink or two.
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