With the announcement that he's adapting The Disaster Artist into a movie, James Franco has put the final stake in the chest of The Room. Once a cult movie beloved for its audacious badness, The Room has transmogrified into a mainstream punchline, known not only to the devotees who kept it alive at midnight screenings but also pretty much anybody who has ever looked at Buzzfeed or seen a YouTube clip reel. We're less than a year from "Hai Mark!" shirts being sold at Hot Topic, if it hasn't already happened.
The Disaster Artist is a book by Greg Sesteros, one of the stars of The Room, and it tells the behind the scenes story of the making of this legendarily awful film. It took Ed Wood almost thirty years to go from cult classic to reknowned bad movie maker (Plan 9 From Outer Space didn't truly enter the mainstream bad movie canon until the 1980 publication of The Golden Turkey Awards by Michael and Harry Medved) and then it took another twenty years for him to be transformed into a lovable brand name in the Tim Burton film. Tommy Wiseau, the weirdo behind The Room, is now making that entire journey in a decade.
Part of the appeal of a cult film is that it is a cult. There's a community that builds up around weird and bad films; you can identify yourself as the kind of person who 'gets' this movie, and you can use references and quotes as a secret language to identify like-minded types. There's nothing wrong with some movies becoming enormous cultural items, but never every movie needs to be that. It's okay for some things to be not popular, or to not be well-known. It's okay to keep secrets - especially when it comes to bad cult movies.
Now as The Room joins Rocky Horror Picture Show as a former cult item that makes people roll their eyes (oh how cute, you're drinking scotchka), a hero has arisen to lead true bad movie afficionados to a new promised land. That man is Neil Breen, and his latest film, Fateful Findings, is playing midnight shows in selected markets. We've talked about Fateful Findings here a lot, but now it's actually getting out and is able to be seen by the right, discriminating audience. Just as The Room passes into mainstream lameness, Fateful Findings appears to take its place.
What makes Breen a better bad auteur than Wisseau is that he actually has a canon. Breen has made a number of films, and each of them are unique in that special outsider art way that gets people like us so excited. Breen's movies all have a unique, baffling vision behind them - a vision that usually sees Breen himself as the sexy hero at the center of it all - and there's nothing false about them. Some people don't understand what the fascination with these sorts of films are - they assume it's all just laughing at incompetent filmmaking. While there is an element of that - how can you not laugh at the laptops smashing in Fateful Findings, or the bizarro suicide montage at the end? - what really makes 'bad' movies unique is that they're pure works. They aren't garbage like Sharknado, intended to be tongue in cheek and hit a mainstream audience. When Breen made Fateful Findings, or his amazing cyborg vengeance Christ movie I Am Here Now, he was saying something. He has a point of view and an aesthetic. That Breen's technique is crummy is hard to argue (although there's a charm to that), but that crummy technique is being used in service of a drive to communicate that he ends up being a true auteur. In a cinema landscape where polished filmmakers create films that have nothing to say and no point of view beyond supplying trailer clips, it's absolutely refreshing to experience the work of a filmmaker trying his damndest to tell us something. Even if that something is incoherent and weird.
So let the mainstream have Tommy Wiseau, a one-hit cult wonder. Wisseau, it turns out, is interested in milking this one film as long as he can. It's hard to imagine Neil Breen resting on the laurels of Fateful Findings. As the multiplex crowds filled with grandmas and uncool kids cheer the Wisseau cameo in The Disaster Artist, the true cult lovers will be poring over every frame of Neil Breen's next oddball magnum opus.