Why So Many People Adore The Room, the Worst Movie Ever Made? A Video Explainer

Not since the height of the Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show’s mid­night screen­ings have I seen a crowd go so nuts for a film, but 2003’s The Room seems to have real­ly hit a cul­tur­al nerve. And it’s only going to get big­ger with the upcom­ing release of The Dis­as­ter Artist, James Fran­co and Seth Rogen’s retelling of how writer/director/star Tom­my Wiseau made his so-bad-it’s‑brilliant film, based on the book by Greg Ses­tero and Tom Bis­sell.

Where­as Rocky Hor­ror was an adap­ta­tion of an already suc­cess­ful East End musi­cal, and a know­ing­ly camp one at that, The Room is sui gener­is. As The Dis­as­ter Artist’s co-author Tom Bis­sell describes it, “It’s like a movie made by an alien who has nev­er seen a movie but had movies thor­ough­ly explained to him.”

The above video from Vox takes the unini­ti­at­ed into the phe­nom­e­non of this piece of “paracinema”–any film that lies out­side the mainstream–and tries to explain why The Room is so beloved while so many oth­er bad films dis­ap­pear into the ether.

One rea­son is its campy nature, though nev­er know­ing­ly so–Wiseau thought he was mak­ing some­thing great. And because it’s so hard to find some­body so dri­ven, yet so unaware of the basics of act­ing, sto­ry­telling, and moviemak­ing, The Room stands out com­pared to oth­er films that try to be inten­tion­al­ly bad. You just can’t fake that kind of thing.

The oth­er rea­son is what crit­ic Pierre Bour­dieu would call cul­tur­al cap­i­tal. That’s the shared joy between fans, and the impor­tance placed on dress­ing up like the char­ac­ters, going to mid­night screen­ings, and see­ing who knows the most lines.

The cur­rent trail­er for The Dis­as­ter Artist reframes the sto­ry as a typ­i­cal Hol­ly­wood sto­ry, where one fol­lows their dreams no mat­ter what, and hints at how The Room’s plot mir­rored actu­al events in Wiseau’s life.

Mean­while, what is real­ly get­ting the buzz is James Franco’s uncan­ny and spot-on por­tray­al of Wiseau and some of The Room’s recre­at­ed footage. It’s almost exact down to the sec­ond.

People’s love of The Room has led some to treat it like the work of art it so want­ed to be. In YouTube essay­ist This Guy Edits’ video, he exam­ines Wiseau’s block­ing of a scene much like The Nerd­writer broke down Hitchcock’s block­ing of Ver­ti­go. Camp in this instance has birthed irony, but in the most lov­ing way.

If you are new to The Room, please fol­low Tom Bissell’s advice and watch it for the first time at home, not at a mid­night screen­ing when you won’t hear any dia­log and spoons are thrown at the screen. Hell, don’t even watch The Dis­as­ter Artist until you’ve sat down and watched Wiseau’s…masterpiece. (Yeah, we said it.)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet the World’s Worst Orches­tra, the Portsmouth Sin­fo­nia, Fea­tur­ing Bri­an Eno

Cult Direc­tor John Waters Hosts a Sum­mer Camp for Naughty Adult Campers: Enroll­ment for the 2018 Edi­tion Opens Today

Susan Sontag’s 50 Favorite Films (and Her Own Cin­e­mat­ic Cre­ations)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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