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"The Roommate": An Unintentionally Hilarious Training-Bra for Horror Films

The Roommate, Property of Sony Pictures

Are you afraid of scary things? Roller coasters? The Saw franchise? And do you long to be brave enough to accompany your bad-ass friends on their thrills-and-chills adventures? If your answer to these questions is a timid, Cringer-not-Battlecat yes, then you need to have a plan of slow immersion into the land of terror, a multiple-step program desensitizing you to horror. You need a training bra for the horror experience.

May I suggest Christian E. Christiansen’s unintentional comedy, The Roommate, as a starting point? Sure, there’s tension, violence, insanity, and gore, but there’s also nothing remotely scary about it. I haven’t laughed so hard in a movie theater since maybe the South Park movie.

Let me be clear: I am a huge wuss. I couldn’t make it through The Mummy because the thought of bugs crawling under my skin gave me the heebie-jeebies. If The Roommate were a ride at Disney, it would probably be the family restroom by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  

So, the plot. Is a plot description even necessary? A young art/design student, Sara (Minka Kelly) is assigned art student Rebecca (Leighton Meester) as her freshman roommate. They get along at first in that careful way that new roommates do. However, it isn’t long before Sara gets the prickly inklings that Rebecca may be like that birdhouse you made in seventh-grade shop class—highly unstable. If you’ve seen Single White Female or Fatal Attraction or pretty much any movie on the Lifetime network, you know how this film goes.

Rebecca gets more and more obsessive, wanting all of Sara’s attention, “protecting” Sara from thoughtless friends and lascivious professors (Billy Zane in an effective PSA on Why We Should Save Up for Retirement, Lest We End Up Doing Films Like This Even Though We Were in the Financial Juggernaut That Is Titanic), and eventually turning to violence when she senses that she does not make up the entirety of Sara’s world. It all culminates in a big, “suspenseful” fight at Sara’s friend’s apartment, involving a gun, blunt objects, lamps used as weaponry, and other pieces of awesomeness.

Don’t worry, though—even in the scary bits, your heart rate will never rise above 70 beats per minute. It’s a gentle thriller, which delivers big laughs. (For me, the funniest moment was when Sara visits Rebecca’s home, and Rebecca’s mother asks, out of nowhere, “Has Rebecca been taking her medication?”) Watching The Roommate is like taking an easy ride around the block with your training wheels: low risk, but still kind of fun in a lame way. Who says movies have to be funny on purpose? Let’s embrace comedy wherever it may find us.

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