Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'Four Rooms': Loathed by Critics, Loved by Cult Fans

Edward Guthman ends his review of Four Rooms, a collaborative anthology film made in 1995, with the following statement:
"The [film] is a batch of shrill, self-indulgent sketches that turn so wretched in spots you start to wonder if the filmmakers wanted them to be bad, if they signed a devil's pact to see who could make the worst, least responsible film and get away with it."
Christopher Null says in his review, "[Four Rooms is] an over-anticipated, overworked movie that was full of talent but devoid of taste." The film only has a 14% on's "Tomatometer." Regardless of the critics' consensus on the movie's worth, it has fast become one of my favorites.

Four Rooms is a film about a bell hop (Tim Roth) named Ted on his first day of work (New Year's Eve) at a lavish hotel in Los Angeles. The frame narrative, moved along by Ted and his interactions with his guests, holds four inner stories that are each written and directed by a different filmmaker. The first story, "The Missing Ingredient" by Allison Anders, is about a coven of witches who are attempting to raise their fallen goddess from the dead. The second, "The Wrong Man" by Alexandre Rockwell, deals with mistaken identity, sexual promiscuity, and "big fuckin' guns." The third, "The Misbehavers" by Robert Rodriguez, follows two children and the antics that ensue when they are left alone in their hotel room by their suave parents. The final story, "The Man From Hollywood" by Quentin Tarantino, is about deplorable Hollywood filmmakers and a costly bet.

While goofy and blatantly outlandish at points (namely the animated opening title sequence, done in the vain of The Pink Panther), the film strikes the right kind of quirky chord with its hysterical plots and bizarre characters. Many of the reviewers, as apparent by the previous quotes, criticize it harshly for its general lack of seriousness. I disagree with this sentiment, but I do agree with them that some of the vignettes are stronger than the others. The first two, "The Missing Ingredient" and "The Wrong Man," are passable as cute time passers to get to the real meat of the film. Neither one is particularly inventive in either style or story, but each is equally entertaining.

Eva (Ione Sky) seduces Ted (Tim Roth) in "The Missing Ingredient."

The best story by far is Rodriquez's "The Misbehavers." Between the hilarious performances of the two child actors and Antonio Banderas, and the playful mood set up by the interesting shot choices and plot turns, Rodriguez spins a simple tale of childhood boredom into a dark comedic farce. Apparently, the idea behind it comes from Rodriguez's college comic strip about two conniving children. He often finds ways of making the audience feel both nostalgic for childhood's adventures and grossed out by gritty portrayals of street life. He later went on to make more kids' films, such as Spy Kids, that are very commercially successful.

Sarah (Lara McKissack) and Juancho (Danny Verduzco) in "The Misbehavers."
Overall, I feel the critics judged the film to severely for the kind of film it is: one part True Stories, one part The Phantom of Liberty, one part Quentin Tarantino's brain.


Did I mention that the lounge music soundtrack is done by Combustible Edison and produced by Mark Mothersbaugh? The tune is so catchy I had to go out and buy it immediately upon finishing the film.


To read more, try these links:
"Four Rooms" -
"Holy Crap, Remember... Four Rooms?" -

1 comment:

  1. Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...
    truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through
    Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
    debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal
    World Film Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring
    Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and
    Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the
    Glam/Punk songs "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst", "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire" and a
    dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


    ***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
    before..." Film Threat
    "A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
    "Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
    version of David Lynch. " IFC News
    "Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
    "Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque