Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

From Bad to Good to Bad Again: Watching "The Room"

Maria Massa | The Observer
On Friday, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center screened the 2003 independent film “The Room” as part of its “Late Night at the Browning” series. Akin to midnight showings of cult classics like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” this screening of “The Room” encouraged audience participation throughout, including a number of gags familiar to fans. The movie bombed when it was originally released, due to poor promotion and even poorer filmmaking. However, it has gained a large fan base because of its overall terribleness and the unintentional humor derived from it.

“The Room” as a movie is complete cinematic garbage. There are numerous story inconsistencies, the dialog is at times either circular or entirely perplexing and the acting is utterly unbearable. Shot discrepancies, non sequitur plot points and character introductions constantly take the viewer out of the movie. It would be exhaustive to list all the instances in which any number of people involved in the making of the movie did something incorrectly; but, in this environment of watching “The Room,” that is the point.

At the time of the screening Friday night, the audience immediately got involved, setting the tone for a rather long hour and a half. Members of the crowd had something to say for every moment, shot and beat. During the opening credits, the chanting of “Water!” accompanied scene-establishing shots of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, a chant that would erupt anytime water was seen on screen. Similar chants were induced whenever a character parked a car, and any appearance of a spoon, an unexplained phenomenon, prompted the throwing of plastic spoons.

These traditions all feel rather forced, or at least did in the Browning cinema the other night. Rather than playfully enjoying the movie’s lack of quality with the occasional riff, the audience much more mean-spiritedly harped on something — or perhaps more accurately, anything — every second. There was nothing inherently important, good or bad, about pointing out a shot containing water. Still, they unrelentingly shouted about it during these, and other like moments, becoming more annoying than any of the films out of focus shots. As much as a continuity error between cuts or an obvious green screen might take someone out of a movie, this constant negative presence does so even more.

I can appreciate the humor found in a poorly-made movie, contemplating how all the people involved could have considered their work viable for any audience at all.  I can even play along and make jokes about acting decisions and the comedy of each scene’s ridiculous elements. Still, this rigid midnight-showing setting does not encourage this behavior or commentary. It is one thing to make fun of “The Room” while watching with a group of friends maybe once, but it is completely different in this cult format.

Furthermore, I do not have the ability to overlook the details surrounding the making of the movie. For those familiar with the stories accompanying its production, I feel as though they hinder enjoyment. In fact, they are as uncomforting as the number of awkward, extended sex scenes and their incorporation into the movie. If you are not familiar with the movie, the details or both, I’ll issue a disclaimer: The information about the movie may give more insight into why it is one of the worst films ever made, but also provides too personal a look at the film’s creator.

A handful of scenes from “The Room” are worth watching to see just how bad, and subsequently how funny, the movie can be. However, the film just doesn’t lend itself to this type of screening, for reasons ranging from annoying to unsettling.