You may have watched some pretty bad films in your time, but you may never have seen one as bad as The Room. Cult-inducingly bad, it is. Which is why, last night, hundreds of people turned up at the Prince Charles Cinema to watch it. And to gawp open-mouthed at the crassness of it all. And to shout back at the screen. And to throw spoons.
The Room has only been shown a handful of times in the UK, even though it was first released in America in 2003. It was made for $6m by a previously unknown director called Tommy Wiseau - who also had the audacity to write the script and star in the leading role. Alas there was nobody to tell him that his love-triangle movie was absolutely awful, so it flopped, and would have stayed buried had it not gradually earned a place in the pantheon of so-bad-it's-good cult movies. With monthly London screenings now underway over here, you may end up throwing a spoon at a screen sooner then you think.
Watching The Room inspires audience participation similar to the Rocky Horror show, but without the dressing up. Every member of last night's 400-strong audience received a plastic spoon and a sheet of instructions, and was encouraged to join in with the now traditional list of catcalls and catchphrases or to chuck in a witty insult of their own. With an auditorium full of bold beer-drinking 20- and 30-somethings, the scene was set for a damning and hilarious riot.
A quick plot summary. Johnny loves Lisa, but Lisa prefers his best friend Mark. It takes Johnny 90 minutes to spot this ("You're tearing me apart, Lisa!"), by which time the main protagonists have had excruciating sex in soft focus at least four times. Johnny has the wobbly-arsed body of an ageing East European rock guitarist, in contrast to Mark's more traditional beardy ruggedness. Lisa is always "beautiful", as the script repeatedly reminds us, and suffers from a most disturbing post-coital neck twinge. Meanwhile Johnny has taken under his wing a young social inadequate called Denny, who would like to sleep with his wife and has an uxplained ball-throwing fixation. Loopy Lisa keeps confiding in her crotchety mum (who has a terminal disease that's only mentioned once) and also in her best friend Michelle (whose boyfriend appears to change actor part way through the film). Almost the entire plot is set in the same San Francisco apartment, into which occasional random non-introduced characters walk, and which is decorated with highly unimpressive modern art. Including framed illustrations of spoons. Hence the spoons.
Every time one of the spoon-filled artworks appeared on the Prince Charles screen, a volley of plastic cutlery filled the air to a loud cry of "Spoon!" from the assembled multitudes. Some major recycling then ensued, as folk collected up the spoons that had landed around them in readiness for chucking the next time the picture frame appeared. Other choreographed shouts included "Focus!" every time the camera blurred, "Hello Denny!" every time the misguided flopsy-haired youngster wandered into shot, and certain rather ruder chants. I know it sounds crass and barely hilarious at all, but the crowd was having a whale of a time laughing in disbelief at plot, dialogue and delivery, and wisecracking off-the cuff throughout.
Some stage plays should never be made into films, especially when they're clunkily scripted and appallingly acted. But The Room transcends awfulness (sheesh, the random drug dealer on the roof) (oh boy, the cringeworthy birthday party scene) (ouch, the award for the least convincing bugging of a telephone answering machine) to make for a wholly entertaining evening of cutlery-based audience participation. If I go again, I'll be sure to take a cheap catering pack of plastic spoons for added aerial bombardment throughout. And I suspect that most of last night's audience will be back, if only because there'll be several more gobsmacking moments they'll have missed the first time round. Did he just... I'm afraid so... omigod.