Review: Bad Hair (2020)

Bad Hair. Directed by Justin Simien. Hulu, 2020.

Premiere Impressions

            When it comes along, an effective horror-comedy is the rare treat. Horror-coms have to balance their tones in such a way that the viewer experiences just as many jumps as laughs. The combination of the two reactions are especially affecting when we get to experience them in groups. Sharing those laughs and scares together makes the horror-comedy a great choice for a group watch, especially around Halloween. Hulu’s new film, Bad Hair, directed by Justin Simien, weaves the horror-comedy into a social satire. Though it may not join the heights of Scream (1996) or Shaun of the Dead (2004) as a regular Halloween viewing, it’s definitely worth a watch for its ambition.

            The film centers on Anna (Elle Lorraine), a young woman who works as an assistant at an MTV-esque channel. When the network decides to retool the network, Zora (Vanessa Williams) takes over. Anna wants to do anything to impress her new boss and get her own show, so she decides she first needs to look the part. She goes to a high-end salon and gets her first weave, which has been recently popularized by the singer Sandra (Kelly Rowland). Though Anna gains confidence with her new hair, she also realizes her hair has a thirst for blood.

            When twisting the horror elements to the film’s satirical objectives, Bad Hair soars. Like most horror films, Bad Hair employs the “first kill” opening scene. Except, this time, it’s not a person who dies, but hair. Simien smartly utilizes the right orchestral stings to emphasize the horror of the situation on screen: a black girl getting a chemical relaxer. The girl’s scalp burns and stings as her cousin tries to get the relaxer out before it causes damage. This scene does an excellent job of setting up the tone the film shoots for throughout: using the tropes of the horror genre to satirize the experience black girls and women go through to achieve “good hair” (hair that better fits into westernized notions of beauty). Unfortunately, the impact does wear off when the images become a bit repeated.

            One of the most impressive things about Bad Hair is its ability to unnerve through aural horror. When characters brush, sponge, or comb hair, the sound design perfectly unnerves the ear and makes the skin crawl. It’s like the anti-ASMR. The weave sewing sequence alone, which features a fabulous Laverne Cox appearance, delightfully combines the satirical tone with the aural horror elements and is worth a screening.

Post-Screening Snippets

  • There isn’t anything particularly frightening about Bad Hair, but there is plenty to make you feel the right amount of icky
  • We need more Robin Thede in more movies right now
  • Should I be using Hulu more?

The Final Tea

            The fact that there even is a movie that’s essentially “attack of the killer weaves” is amazing and deserves a moment of praise on its own. The fact that it’s actually an enjoyable watch earns it another round of applause. Truth be told, though, Bad Hair is one of those movies that’s an A+ idea carried out by a B film. For a night of spooky, satirical fun, it’ll do the trick.


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