The Room (2003) which has Tommy Wiseau as writer, director, producer, and star is such a terrible film that it has acquired cult status with special screenings so that true aficionados of bad films can watch it in the company of others and collectively revel in its sheer awfulness. I reviewed the film back in 2011 and described some of the things that made it, as one wag wrote, the Citizen Kane of bad films.
Tom Bissell wrote a book The Disaster Artist about Wiseau and the making of the film. Dean Peterson has made a short video trying to understand the film’s appeal.
According to Bissell, the film gets its “bizarro power” from the fact that it’s “a movie that was made by someone who had maybe seen some movies but didn’t really understand how they were supposed to work.”
Contrary to what you may think, researchers have found that an appreciation of this kind of “trash cinema” can actually indicate higher levels of intelligence. Trash films share more characteristics with avant-garde art films than they do with typical commercial Hollywood fare. Audiences are drawn to both “trash” and “art” films for many of the same reasons, like their transgressive nature and their rejection of mainstream aesthetic norms.
Now there is a film The Disaster Artist based on Bissell’s book starring James Franco as Wiseau. It will be released in December of this year. Here’a a teaser trailer.
I have got to see this film.
Rob Grigjanis says
For me, the watchable/unwatchable axis is almost orthogonal to the poorly-made/well-made axis (as defined by received wisdom, anyway). I find Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons boring to the point of unwatchability. In fact, that’s true of most of Welles’ oeuvre as a director*. Same goes for Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen; I loathe almost all their work. It’s a bit more complicated with Ingmar Bergman, but I find a lot of his stuff tiresome.
*This is partly why I think the speculation that Welles was the real director of The Third Man is bullshit. Now that is a bloody good movie. One of my favourites.
Marcus Ranum says
I watched and found it uninterestingly bad. Interestingly bad movies are ones where they spend huge amounts of money trying to make a great film (think: Alien: Covenant) -- there is a whole mystery “how did it happen?” angle that you miss when you have a bad movie, bad actors, bad plot, bad camera-work, etc. “how did Star Wars happen?” I mean, shit, the dialogue in The Room is scintillating compared to Star Wars.
I hadn’t even heard of this movie. I have no plans to watch.
One “serious” movie that is genuinely comical is Signs. The scene where the alien is locked in the pantry is particularly amusing.
Marcus Ranum says
Yes, that movie is amazingly dumb. What if space aliens came and were interstellar-capable but incredibly stupid?