From the Archives: Enjoying The Room: A User’s Guide

From the Archives: Enjoying The Room: A User’s Guide

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

With The Disaster Artist fast approaching and with considerable buzz to boot, it’s time for everyone who hasn’t done so already to check out The Room, the deeply insane independent film which started it all. It’s often referred to as “The Citizen Kane of bad movies,” a title which writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau seems to embrace. Well, at least the Citizen Kane part.

And who can argue with his pride? In a world where soulless, purposefully bad Sharknado movies are released on a regular basis, it’s films like The Room, whose ineptitudes are borne not of cynicism, but of legitimate love for the medium, which end up having value — which end up being legitimized 15 years after the fact. Let’s just put it this way: Tommy Wiseau almost definitely has a seat at this year’s Oscars. Ian Ziering almost definitely does not. This is because The Room really is the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Sharknado is just the Sharknado of bad movies. Ya follow?

In anticipation of The Disaster Artist many theaters are exhibiting The Room, and I implore you to check it out. Not only will it help to inform your experience with James Franco’s new flick, but it’s an unmissable experience unto itself. Much like The Rocky Horror Picture ShowThe Room is not a movie one can just watch. One must participate. Unlike Rocky Horror, the interactive script for The Room is still growing/ever-changing. I would like to share with you a small ‘how to’ guide for n00bs.

Step one is the hardest: Watch the movie at home.

It won’t be easy. The Room is very, very, VERY bad. The novelty of how bad it is can wear thin pretty quickly if you’re not imbibing mind-altering substances (recommended), and even then it can be tough. It helps to watch this with other folks. The reason your first viewing should be outside of a theater is that you will need a frame of reference. A midnight screening will be hard to hear and often hard to see if there’s a good crowd. You owe it you yourself (and Tommy Wiseau) to view the film on its own terms first. Plus, once it’s in your brain you are now able to show the film to other n00bs, whose incredulous reactions to it are their own form of supremely satisfying entertainment.

Ok, so now you’ve seen it and you’re ready to check out the film at a rowdy, late night screening. You will need the following items:

– Mind altering substance of choice (it’s a party!)

– Herbal tea (beforehand, to prevent loss of voice — you will be yelling A LOT if you do this right)

– Nerf football(s) that you are okay with losing.

– Plastic spoons

– Tuxedo or tuxedo t-shirt

During the film there are certain cues which the audience follows involving the above items. But remember: there are no concrete rules. If you feel the need to say anything at all regarding the quality or experience of the film, DO IT! There are few faux pas when the goal is pandemonium. Granted, social awareness is required as well. If you are dominating the theater but the crowd isn’t responding, you might be the asshole. In that case, shut up.

This rarely occurs since almost everyone is drunk and looking to MST3K their night away.

The rules:

– Wear your tuxedo!

– Any time there is an establishing shot of San Francisco, say “Meanwhile, in San Francisco,” or sing the Full House theme.

– During the many long, drawn out establishing pans, chant “Go! Go! Go!” until the shot lands upon Alcatraz. Then yell “Alcatraz!”  If the shot cuts off before reaching Alcatraz, a deflating “awwwwwwwwwwwww” is yelled.

– Whenever the camera loses focus, yell “focusssssss!”

– Whenever Denny enters or leaves, say it along with Johnny: “Oh HAAAI Denny!” or “Bye, Denny!”   This can be done with other characters as well. Except for Mark.

– Whenever Mark enters, we honor the actor who plays him, Greg Sestero, by yelling “SESTOSTERONE!”

– Often times a character will excuse themselves from a scene prematurely. We acknowledge this with a hearty “but you just got here!”

– Whenever Mark or Johnny refers to the other as their best friend, we remind them “was.”

– Observe a moment of silence during the flower shop scene. It is sacred and must be left to play out in its own magical way.

– YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA! Say it with Johnny and cheer afterwards.

– Whenever water is featured, yell “Water!!!”  Especially during the sex scenes.

– Clap to the music during the sex scenes, and feel free to make gross sex noises in conjunction with the action.

– Loud smoochie noises are to be made whenever two characters kiss.

– Since nobody seems to care that Claudette “definitely” has breast cancer, feel free to Mad Libs references to her condition into any of her lines.

– Characters often comment on Lisa’s dress even when she’s not wearing a dress. Remind them by saying “that’s not a dress!”

– During a particularly oddball monologue, a tendon in Lisa’s neck repeatedly bulges out in a visually uncomfortable fashion. We highlight each bulge with guttural noises. Oftentimes someone will quote Quatto from Total Recall. Only do this when the scene ends, and only if you can properly quote Quatto.

– Whenever characters throw a football, start a catch with someone in the crowd. Bold audience members can make their way to the front of the theater to stage a game.

– Johnny’s house has a collection of framed photographs of spoons and other cutlery. Whenever these appear, throw some spoons. Pro-tip: if you sit toward the front of the theater, you will be able to collect and re-throw spoons. There are a LOT of opportunities to throw them.

– Remind the characters to lock the door.

– Say any line you wish along with the characters so long as you can nail it with a reasonable level of accuracy.

– Make any sort of commentary you wish at any point. But remember, timing is everything! AND SHUT YER YAP DURING THE FLOWER SCENE. “Oh hai, doggie” belongs to Johnny and Johnny alone.

– Stick around and mock the names in the credits. Not many do this, but when it happens there are always some really good zingers.

I know I’m forgetting some other highlights, but you get the idea. Just about anything goes. It’s all about having fun and basking in the majesty of one of the most earnest and least cynical pieces of cinema in existence — a thoroughly terrible film that transcended its lack of quality to become THE essential cult exhibition.

Oh, and if you somehow screw it up and find yourself at a screening of Room, please do not follow any of these rules. Remain quiet and enjoy Brie Larson’s Oscar winning performance.

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