“The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s cult hit considered by some the best-worst movie of all time, is finally getting a wide release after 15 years. Previously limited to semi-regular midnight screenings, “The Room” will play in roughly 600 theaters across the country for one night only on Wednesday (get tickets here).
Yet people who have never seen the movie but are curious after seeing James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist” might not know just what they’re getting into. This isn’t just some movie that has a big following. This is “The Room.” It has as many collective, participatory moments as a modern “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The only difference is this cult actually thinks this movie is terrible, and they narrate it like their own personal “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Here’s what to expect if you’re a “Room” virgin.
Beware of Flying Spoons
Come armed to the screening with a handful of plastic spoons — and be prepared to use them. Located throughout the home of the lead characters, Johnny and Lisa, are randomly placed, framed photos of spoons. Yes, spoons. These are never explained. And they’re everywhere. Whenever they’re visible, the audience screams, “Spoons!” and chucks their disposable utensils at the screen, as seen here in this barrage of cutlery.
Someone in your party might also consider bringing a football. Johnny leads his friends, all dressed in tuxedos, in an impromptu (and meaningless) scene where they toss the pigskin like it’s a bag of flour, and re-enacting it in the theater or lobby is always fun.
Go! Go! Go! Go!
Ask Wiseau, and he will tell you that all of his filming techniques were by design. That includes blurry shots, lame B-roll footage in San Francisco and elaborate tracking shots that do the film’s cheap sets no favors.
The audience is more than happy to celebrate Wiseau’s directorial vision. When the camera starts panning across the Golden Gate Bridge, everyone chants “Go! Go! Go!” as if to will the camera all the way across the bay. Some have even taken to singing the “Full House” theme song during appropriate shots of San Francisco homes. They’ll shout “Focus!” whenever the shot dips in and out of clarity. Some characters just seem to materialize in the movie without any prior introduction. One character was even re-cast midway through shooting, and the earlier scenes were never reshot. To which you should reply, “Who the hell are you?”
And in one scene, keep an eye out for a strange bulge protruding from Lisa’s neck. Screaming in horror or yelling “Kill it!” are very encouraged.
People Know This Movie by Heart
“You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” “Oh hai Mark.” Franco and company had some fun re-enacting these lines, among other priceless gems in Wiseau’s script, but that’s only because “The Room’s” fanbase has made them iconic.
When Johnny starts his perplexing imitation of a chicken, the audience will join along with chants of “Cheep, cheep, cheep!” Whenever Johnny’s creepy, young, hanger-on friend Denny shows up, the audience welcomes him with a “Hi, Denny!” And when he abruptly leaves, they call back, “But you just got here!” Johnny at one point even glances to the corner of the frame, where a few eagle-eyed viewers may be positioned in the front of the theater waiting to say hello.
Everyone May Storm Out
The best-worst scene of the best-worst movie ever may be an extended (and hardly erotic) sex scene, with Johnny thrusting to what looks like Lisa’s belly button. Wiseau insisted on showing his bare ass during this scene, and even the biggest fans of this trainwreck don’t care to sit through it. Veterans have been known to leave for the bathroom or a smoke break early so they don’t have to endure it, and other groups collectively march out of the theater in a mock protest.
With “The Room” going into wide release for just one night, Wiseau can’t expect to be everywhere at once. But he is known to frequent screenings of his film. And Tommy, an ever elusive and strange character, never disappoints during Q&As. One of his favorite rituals is to read a Shakespearean sonnet in his thick, inscrutable Eastern European accent. And speaking from experience, I recall Wiseau during one screening I attended compare himself and his work to that of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. If you ever get the chance to see him in person, you’ll ask your guest whether this guy’s truly for real, and you’ll never figure it out.