BAD HAIR: Demonic Weaves, Slave Folklore, and New Jack Swing
(Spoiler Free Review)
The highly anticipated comedy horror, “Bad Hair”, written and directed by “Dear White People’s” Justin Simien came out a few days ago and Black Twitter (or maybe just me) was curious if this would be an actual decent horror story judging by its brow furrowing premise.
Without giving away too much, the story is set in a fictional version of 1989, where we follow a young woman named Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine). Anna works at Culture, a network that produces shows a la Yo! MTV Jams or for more millennial audiences, 106 & Park. For the first part of the story, Anna is stressed and overlooked by practically everyone in her life; this is until one day whilst on set, a music video starring her favorite “pop-soul” singer Sandra (Kelly Rowland) debuts the pop star with a weave that has everyone intrigued, in particular Anna.
Dazzled and desperate, Anna decides in order for her to get what she deserves, she’ll need to get a sew-in as well. This is when things take a turn and Anna discovers that her new hair might have a mind of its own.
Personally, the film wasn’t terrible. It was actually better than what I thought it was going to be because:
- Simien’s POV as a director can sometimes skew too obscure, leaning towards art snob, or sometimes it’s too on the nose and reads as corny.
- Horror movies starring Black people usually aren’t that scary (or good).
Okay, okay, before you come at me, let me start by saying that it’s not that I don’t think Black people can make quality horror films (let’s not sleep on Jordan Peele) it’s just that we don’t have that many that don’t double as comedies or lean more towards the comedic elements. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a little dark humor (Wes Craven fan here) but even those films were frightening (don’t act like “Leprechaun in the Hood” didn’t scare you whilst making you chuckle).
But I guess that’s my main qualm with this movie. It had potential at the beginning of the film and actually slightly revitalized my interest with the appearance of Kelly Rowland as this Janet Jackson meets Karyn White inspired singer that helps serves as the catalyst towards our supernatural turning point (the scene where she gets her weave sewn in is….whew). But when the actual horror started, it quickly went from TV-MA to TV-14 with those Disney Channel Original Movie effects.
Particularly there’s this one scene in the movie where Anna’s hair kills everyone in the salon, but the murders and the effects are so hilarious, you then start to think, is this a parody?
After that scene, I say dig heavily into your suspension of disbelief bag because the film already jumps the shark but it decides to just keep going forward as if we’re still committed as a viewer; but on the flip, if you’ve already made halfway through the ridiculousness, you might as well just get comfortable and actually try and enjoy the film for what it is.
ALSO, WHOEVER DID VANESSA WILLIAMS HAIR, PARTICULARLY IN HER FIRST SCENE, SHOULD BE PERSECUTED. WAS THAT APART OF HER CHARACTER, BECAUSE THAT WIG LOOKED SO DUSTY *breathes* YOU’RE LUCKY SHE’S BEAUTIFUL, AND I’LL LEAVE IT AT THAT.
ANYWAY, the best part of the film for me was the music. Composer, Kris Bowers (When They See Us, Green Book) and Simien both played a hand in the production and it was impressive. It’s clear they’re fans of the New Jack Swing genre because Sandra had bops.
Speaking of, I was actually more interested in Sandra, the Fellas and Germaine D (Usher). I’m a huge fan of Janet Jackson and the New Jack Swing era and when I heard the beginning of “I Get It” which is how we’re introduced to Sandra, I literally had to play it back because I was so taken aback by the songs execution.
I honestly want Kelly to do an entire 80’s/Janet inspired album because her vocals on that type of production were amazing.
It was also refreshing to see the diversity of so many Black actors like newcomers Ashely Blaine Featherson (Dear White People), and Chante Adams (Roxanne Roxanne) and millennial trailblazers like Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) to familiar faces like Vanessa Williams (Soul Food, Ugly Betty) and Blair Underwood (Self Made, When They See Us).
As like most of Simien’s work, there’s this ambitious message about self-love and the continuing acceptance of one’s relationship and ownership with their racial identity; something that a lot of Black people can relate to. But I also think that the other nuances are muddled within the story and could’ve been explored a bit more in order to fully enjoy it and grasp its messaging.
Bad Hair as a film by itself is weak and would be better suited as apart of an anthology because it currently reads less as a comedy horror and more like a fun supernatural thriller.