Horrible movie aims to be the new ‘Rocky Horror’

By Christopher F. Schuetze

Fans of “The Room,” who endure long lines outside the Village East Cinema, call the film the “Citizen Kane” of awful movies — and greet the low-budget flick with “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-like enthusiasm at monthly midnight showings. 

Set in San Francisco, “The Room” is the convoluted tale of a love triangle between a too-good-to-be-true banker, his devious fiancée and his handsome best friend. The movie features lost subplots (a character’s cancer is mentioned at the beginning and never again), actors who appear and disappear without reason, and a mishmash plot involving drugs, guns and tapped phones. The movie opened in 2003 to scathing reviews that cited the implausible script, the wooden acting and cheesy special effects that would make Ed Wood cringe.

“It’s the worst movie in the world, and that makes it fantastic,” Brian Penney, a New York University student, said to the cheers of his friends, as he stood outside the Village East Cinema, at 12th St. and Second Ave., before a recent screening. “It is the most hilarious thing you will ever see in your life.” 

Penney, like most of the crowd, had seen the film numerous times at home on DVD. But it’s more fun to watch in a packed theater, as fans from Los Angeles to Ohio to Toronto and London are finding. 

“The Room” plays to jeers and cheers, with bits of dialogue spoken in chorus. A random, framed picture of a spoon spurs moviegoers to rise and throw plastic spoons at the screen, to a chant of “Spoon! Spoon! Spoon!” More-daring members of the audience dress like the film’s characters. Laughter underscores the excruciating sex scenes. 

When the heroine’s mother tells her daughter that she had better respect her fiancé because he is able to give her financial security, the audience responds, “Because you are a woman!” in impressive unison. 

The film’s creator and star, Tommy Wiseau, seems to have intended for the flick to be taken seriously when it was first released in 2003. Now, he calls it a black comedy. 

Midnight showings are playing to sold-out houses across the country — starting in Los Angeles, where “The Room” barely survived its initial two-week limited run but now draws celebrities such as David Cross, Paul Rudd, Cameron Diaz and Alec Baldwin. The Village East Cinema has hosted a monthly Friday midnight showing since March — the next one is Jan. 29 — and the movie has attracted crowds in London and Toronto. 

Wiseau, an émigré of foggy Eastern European origin, embraces the attention his film is getting. Despite the mockery, he insists that audience members are connecting with his vision.

“The bottom line is ‘The Room’ relates to human behavior,” he said during a recent phone interview.   

There’s something in “human behavior” that keeps fans coming back for more. 

“I think it’s going to be a tradition for me and my friends,” said Alyson Semigran, 25, the first person in line at a recent showing. “I think we are going to do this for a while.”