The House That Drips Blood On Alex
By Dom Sinacola· Nov 19, 2013
Ten years ago, The Room emerged, dripping in afterbirth, as clumsy and stumbling over itself and as alien to the planet as a newborn. Though the movie’s since achieved cult status that’s nearly ubiquitous in its continued celebration of the the claim that The Room is mankind’s purest example of unbridled ineptitude, the man who wrote, directed, edited, and fully funded it with $6 million dollars of his own money—a man who calls himself Tommy Wiseau—has stayed a well-kept secret. Very little is known about him—where he calls home (though he fervently asserts, through his vaguely placeable accent that he’s from New Oreleans), or from where he accrued his substantial fortune, or even if that’s his real name. The value of which is pretty obvious: there is no precedent for a human being such as Tommy Wiseau. All we’ve been allowed is The Room, this weird and wonderful thing beholden entirely to Tommy Wiseau’s artistic vision, an expensive, delirious synthesis of the malformed way in which he sees the world.
But the deeper truths behind the dearth of biography surrounding Tommy Wiseau speak to a much sadder reality. As Greg Sestero tells it in his recently published The Disaster Artist—a beautifully written inside look at Sestero’s time as Wiseau’s closest confidant during the long filming of The Room—Wiseau’s anti-masterpiece could best be understood, if that is what one wants to do when regarding The Room, as the perfect distillation of one man’s daily relationship with—and struggle against—rejection. In it, white-collar working guy Johnny (Wiseau) fails to gain recognition at work (“the bank”) while supporting his fiance, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who also happens to be having a passionate affair with Johnny’s best friend, the dashing Mark (Sestero). When the bank passes on giving Johnny a promotion, the rest of Johnny’s life follows suit and spins out of control: the people he loves continue to betray him, his mother in law gets breast cancer, and everyone’s starting to believe the rumors that, to top it all off, Johnny’s been physically abusing Lisa. As both a last recourse and a final statement of purpose, Johnny shoots himself in the head, sure that suicide is the only way he’ll ever be appreciated. The world, The Room seems to say, just doesn’t understand a human being such as Johnny. He yells as much to everyone at his birthday party: “Everyone betrayed me I am fed up with this world.”
The Disaster Artist claims the misunderstanding was mutual. Describing the second day of filming, Sestero remembers a conversation between Johnny and Mark on the rooftop of Johnny’s building. Johnny denies that he’s ever hit Lisa, to which Mark responds with a story about a promiscuous woman who’d attended to “a dozen guys” before one of those same gentleman discovered her coterie of suitors and put her in the hospital. Johnny, unsure why Mark would tell him something like that, smiles and says brightly, “What a story, Mark!”
For reasons I nor anyone else could gather, every time I got to the part in Mark’s story about the woman being beaten up, Tommy would laugh warmly before delivering his line. It was unsettling. It was disturbing. Take after take, Tommy/Johnny would react to the story of this imaginary woman’s hospitalization with fond and accepting laughter.
These are lines he conceived, in a script he relentlessly championed, and he seemed baffled by their intent. Even after a few more hours of shooting and countless, exasperated explanations from the crew, Tommy never caught on. “It was as though Tommy had never bothered to contemplate what the line he wrote actually meant,” Sestero concludes.
There’s a moment in The House That Drips Blood On Alex in which Tommy Wiseau reacts similarly to an appalling set of circumstances. Alex (Wiseau), the titular splashpad for falling gore, guesses that he got such a deal on his new house probably because it was once part of a criminal investigation. He’s not exactly sure what happened, but his realtor (the incomparable Joey Greco) he thinks said something about a grisly murder-suicide? “The husband died and the wife choked him to death…,” Alex tells his friend before chuckling and waving away the rest of the story. But then Aex’s friend implies that maybe the flamboyant realtor just had a crush on Alex. Eh? Eh? Alex does not think this is funny. “Funny funny man. So funny I forgot…to…laugh at you, huh. So funny.”
Though The House That Drips Blood On Alex is obviously parody, it exists more as forum for Tommy Wiseau, deriving its reason for being solely from the unalterably weird way in which he delivers all lines completely outside of reality. He says things as if he’s reading a piece of slam poetry off of a tombstone in the dark. As if he’s talking with his forehead. As if he’s pretending to understand what being a human is like.
As if he’s wearing what are undoubtedly his own pair of baggy slacks, chain wallet, and army of ill-fitting polo shirts.
He holds aloft a quill pen:
Where one can get a pen like this.
He carries a box to his new digs on Blood Street. His boxes are labeled “Gifts 4 Mom” or “Box for Pillows.” He opens his mouth wide, like he’s hoping the right sounds will, with enough emotion, spill out:
Home sweet house.
His faith in humanity is tested:
Who name a street Blood Street anyhow nobody does.
And with barely flagging courage, he sets out to investigate the cause of all the blood that’s dripping on him. He knows he’s about to meet a certain fate:
I need to know what causing leak if it is indeed blood I have to know.
The Disaster Artist patiently chronicles the kind of endurance tests Tommy Wiseau put his whole crew through regularly, in many cases due to how often Tommy forgot his lines or lacked any awareness about the depth of his story. So, whether or not Atom Films and Comedy Central—the force, essentially, behind The House That Dripped Blood on Alex—should be held responsible for exploiting Wiseau, because really all they had to do was feed him some lines and aim the camera at him until he eventually spit out the right words no matter how they sounded, it’s hard to imagine that the crew had an easy time of it. There’s probably a major disconnect between Wiseau and those with which he works: Tommy just doesn’t think anyone can understand him.
As much as Alex sometimes bears the extra special scent of fantasy fulfillment—because who could resist Tommy Wiseau naked, covered in bodily fluid, screaming bloody murder?—the absurdity of its main character pales in comparison to to that of The Room’s main inhabitant. The short film is what its creators assume is a world in which Tommy can thrive; The Room knows that there’s no such thing.
Which is maybe a circumspect way of saying that the mystery of Tommy Wiseau is all that he is. If we ever got any closer to knowing the truth behind Tommy’s past—and The Disaster Artist figures out how to reveal crucial details while maintaining its main character’s ineffable blankness, which is part of the book’s power—we’d maybe find a clueless person who’d share our basest fears about rejection, or failure, or maybe just getting the shit end of the stick pretty much everywhere we turn. His unsettling interactions with the world aren’t his enlightened reactions to a bunch of people and circumstances in which he’ll never be understood. They’re the reflection of an indifferent universe onto a flailing lifetime of pointless gestures. Which can still be pretty funny now and then. The cruelty of an indifferent universe I mean.