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Bad Hair film review

Updated: Jul 20, 2021


Directed by: #JustinSimien

Written by: #JustinSimien

Film review by: Max White


Writer/director Justin Simien makes his foray into horror with this initially promising but ultimately flawed film about an evil weave. In the last five years we’ve seen a wave of films centred on the lives of black characters become instant classics, but Bad Hair doesn’t match the wit or tension of Jordan Peele’s Us and Get Out, nor does it go as deep on race as Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You.

There’s an element of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books at play, particularly in the bodily possession of one of the American author’s most famous stories, The Haunted Mask. In Bad Hair, ambitious executive assistant Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) is encouraged to get a weave to secure a hosting role at hit music channel Culture (later rebranded to Cult), but the weave soon takes over her, not dissimilar to how a mask controls young Carley Beth.

The cast has plenty of recognisable faces, from James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) to Laverne Cox (Promising Young Woman, Orange is the New Black) to Kelly Rowland to Usher. None of which play central roles, but the last two in that list feel like real missteps. It’s impossible to see stars like that and not be taken out of the film, particularly when their characters could have easily been played by lesser celebrities.

Credit must go to the sound team for its incredibly uncomfortable work in the yanking and threading of hair in the scene where the evil weave’s applied. As well as in the opening scene, where a young Anna is getting a do-it-at-home hair treatment; the fizzing and burning of her scalp is as painful to endure as any Saw sequence, despite the fact that what you’re seeing and hearing isn’t an elaborate death trap.

It’s a shame that’s all we get of the body horror stuff because the film quickly coasts into predictable set pieces where characters meet uninteresting ends. The hair becomes less of a rooted, visceral evil and more of a Venom-like set of tentacles doing increasingly silly things. Julia Ducournau’s hairball scene in cannibal flick Raw and the long, wet locks seen in Ringu and The Ring franchise all use hair in a more sinister way.

The main problem with Bad Hair is that it doesn’t make good on its promise to the audience. It’s clearly a horror – the low, eerie strings à la Us and demonic possession make that difficult to argue. But it isn't the "satirical horror love letter" that Simien wants it to be, or that the trailer might lead you to believe. The themes of political and social commentary, and racial injustices, aren't explored anywhere near deeply enough to earn that label. Not when other films have done it so expertly and so recently.

By trying to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that it fails to do anything particularly well. What showed promise in the first half then made way for something more Scary Movie than scary movie.

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