Anyone who has ever seen, quoted, or obsessed about the cinematic odyssey that is The Room already knows that actor/director/producer/screenwriter/chicken impersonator Tommy Wiseau is some sort of brilliant, delusional maniac. Or he's an incredibly dedicated method actor. Or he's a weirdo from some as-yet undiscovered Eastern European country. Or he's a vampire. Either way, the cult of Wiseau has grown ever larger in the 11 years since The Room became a midnight movie cult classic. So how do you follow up the most beloved cult movie of the last decade?
After six years in gestation and/or hibernation, Wiseau finally unveiled the pilot of that followup, a TV sitcom called The Neighbors, in-person at seven sold-out screenings at The Landmark Sunshine Theater in Manhattan this weekend. It doesn't seem possible, but The Neighbors makes The Room look like Eyes Wide Shut. The production values are, across the board, terrible—the sound is either mixed way too high or it drops out completely, and it's out of focus about 33% of the time. This is probably what happens when you go from a $6 million budget (for The Room) to... whatever this cost.
There are hypnotic interludes and shrieking characters. There are a lot of chicken impersonations. There is a lot of cleavage. There is a chicken. Here are our thoughts (spoiler alert!):
1. Literally every scene feels like it could be the start of a porno. The Room had four sex scenes (two of which feature recycled footage of Wiseau's butt) which ARE softcore porn, but the rest of the film felt like it could be a film, if you squinted. The lower budget of The Neighbors leaves no room for confusion. Once the pilot is available online, some enterprising young pornographer really should do a Neighbors-inspired series.
2. Wiseau plays two characters: building manager Charlie (who wears an ill-fitting Rod Stewart-esque spiky black wig) and Ricky Rick (who wears a long blonde wig, is dressed up like a human Converse sneaker, and...collects drug money, or something?). In just about every scene he's in, Charlie ends it by saying, "Oh what a day!" Charlie also has an empty picture frame on his desk, and his office looks like it comes from 1998.
3. Characters wear Tommy Wiseau-emblazoned underwear. Seriously, watch. (Also note: this scene was NAHT in the pilot, but the underwear does show up anyway.)
4. There is one Asian man—his character's name completely escapes me—who can't stop smiling during his one scene in Charlie's office ...when he is supposed to be in a serious argument with his "gangster" neighbor. I think they were both hurling racist slurs at each other, but it was hard to understand. You can see him trying very hard to keep a straight face, but he can't. He even looks at the camera during the scene a few times. It was as if a Room superfan got a walk-on role and couldn't suppress his glee.
5. As with the shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and various random apartment buildings in The Room, The Neighbors has its own scenic b-roll it cuts to between EVERY scene (these could also be intended to be bumpers for ads, but if so, there will be around 20 ad breaks in this thing). It's a still shot of the outside of the apartment complex, and it's accompanied by the same anonymous techno music (which serves as the theme music for the show).
6. As the pilot went on, something amazing happened: we witnessed the birth of the first cult tradition for The Neighbors. Once the audience picked up on the repetitive nature of the b-roll, they started clapping along to the beat. It was wonderful.
7. Although none of the actors from The Room show up in The Neighbors (except for Wiseau), the performances feel like a direct extension of The Room. Every scene is a very particular kind of awkward, with actors walking over each other's lines...even when they're doing monologues.
8. The cleavage is out of control. At least three actresses are wearing nothing more than teeny-tiny bikinis for absolutely no reason. Even the older women in the cast have their cleavage prominently popping out. The camera constantly zooms in on their breasts, or starts shots centered on their breasts.
9. I can't emphasize enough how poorly the sound is mixed. It was so high-pitched it was painful to listen to at times. On top of that, half the characters are screaming throughout their scenes, despite not having any reason to scream.
10. The worst screamer, by far, is an older black woman with dreadlocks who owns a chicken. She literally screams every line she has, and her dialogue is completely incomprehensible as a result. It's supposed to be funny, I think, when she is lying in the hallway shrieking and screeching as other characters pass by. It is only funny in how painful it is.
11. Right, the chicken: everyone in the building is obsessed with the chicken for some reason. One dude steals the woman's chicken for reasons that went completely over my head. Maybe he felt she wasn't caring for the chicken well? The missing chicken is what leads to the dreadlocked woman shrieking all the time. Therefore, I hate that chicken.
12. But I still love Tommy's impression of a chicken.
13. There's a pizza delivery guy (re: #1, porno scenes) who takes his shirt off for no apparent reason after awkwardly flirting with one of the aforementioned bikini-clad women, named Philadelphia. He then decides to move into the building. The building is like The Blob, absorbing everything that enters it.
14. Another joke involved people asking to borrow $20. This was probably the best joke in the whole pilot that I still remember (even if it did get ground down by coming up about six different times).
15. But it stuck with the audience: while we were watching The Room after a brief Q&A with Wiseau, someone yelled out "can I borrow $20" to mass laughter.
16. There's also this whole thing with Ricky Rick's magical girlfriend using witchcraft (it involved her lightly touching his face or something) to get a shotgun for free from the local drug dealer.
17. Wiseau was wearing what appeared to be three different studded belts, and sunglasses, when he ran into the theater.
18. During the Q&A, Wiseau encouraged people to write to various television stations to petition to get the show on air. But he promised if it didn't happen, he would still show the pilot in theaters.
19. He also was asked whether English was his first language (he said yes) and how much of the book The Disaster Artist (a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Room written by actor Greg Sistero, which is also being turned into a film by James Franco & Seth Rogen) he agreed with. He said 50%.
20. God bless Tommy Wiseau for embracing his cult. Two of the actors from The Neighbors were at the screening as well (the drug dealer and the guy who stole the chicken), and they seemed to be two of his biggest fans (the chicken stealer was running around the room taking video of the Q&A on his iPad).
Despite the terrible production values and constant shrieking, I had an absolutely wonderful time watching it. It's a total mess, but for Wiseau fans, a must-see. Even now, so many years after The Room became a cult classic, it's incredibly hard to tell whether Wiseau means for the audience to laugh at the parts they laugh at. Either way, I strongly encourage everyone to write NBC.