I just finished watching Bad Hair and I am underwhelmed and disappointed to say the least. I’m sad because I was really excited to see this movie. I’m always happy to see a Black director making a horror movie starring Black people. After all, as Jordan Peele often says, many Black people have always and will always love horror, but haven’t seen themselves in these films for many years.
To start, if you’re a Black man making a movie about Black women’s hair, you maybe should have written it with a Black woman?? Because there’s a certain authenticity that’s missing from the film.
When Zora takes over at Culture, Brook-Lynne, played by Lena Waithe, says, “It would be some light-skinned bitch.” This line felt so inauthentic to me. Maybe she would’ve said, “It would be someone with her ‘aesthetic’.” Maybe she would’ve brought up the issue of colorism, but why must we have a film written by a Black man in which a Black woman calls another Black woman a bitch?
When Anna goes to her aunt and uncle’s house and her uncle picks up that plate wrapped in tin foil to give to her, even that felt off to me. In real life, that plate would’ve been in the oven, or in the microwave or on the stove to help it retain heat, not on the kitchen table.
Now, let’s talk about the scene where Anna gets the weave she’s yearned for. When Anna enters Virgie’s, she’s greeted by the wavy-haired, light-skinned Denise, played by Robin Thede. So colorism is clearly a theme in this film, but it’s never explicitly discussed.
Laverne Cox, who plays Virgie, is the perfect combination of menacing and enticing and watching Anna wince and cry as blood pools in her scalp as her weave is sewn in definitely raised my blood pressure a few notches. Is the scene terrifying? No. Is it creepy? Definitely.
So now Anna has conformed to white Western beauty standards. But the need Anna feels to conform is never directly discussed and I wish it had been. Most Black women have fallen victim to white beauty standards at one time or another. Shortly after I started law school, I started pressing my natural hair because I thought pressed hair looked “more professional” and would help me get a job. Spoiler alert: I graduated from law school in 2009, the economy crashed in 2008, so even if I’d had a weave that stopped at my belly button, I wouldn’t have been able to find a job.
One thing I did like about the film is Anna accusing Julius of sleeping his way to the top. Not enough men are accused of this given how true it probably is.
But back to things in this movie I didn’t care for. Why did Anna’s landlord need to attempt to rape her in order for her weave to claim its first victim?? As a Black woman, the last thing I want to watch is another Black woman getting sexually assaulted. Anna’s killer hair could’ve just killed him because he wouldn’t let up on her about the rent. This movie isn’t seeming like it was written or directed by someone who loves Black women.
Furthermore, naming a character Sista Soul seems caricaturish. When Brook-Lynne (another terrible name by the way) ran after her after the programming meeting calling “Sista! Sista! Sista!” this move solidified that it’s trying to be something it’s not: authentically Black.
When Sista gets a weave, the movie starts to take on an Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel, which would’ve worked if Simien had stuck with it. But sadly, he didn’t. When Anna’s weave’s lust for blood leads it to drink her period blood, that long black hair crawling down her body reminded me of The Grudge, but it’s like Simon Cowell used to say: don’t try to sing Mariah, Whitney or Celine because you’ll never measure up and your audience will just be left thinking about these women’s great performances and all of the ways you’ve fallen short.
Speaking of falling short, the scene where Anna’s weave kills Edna, Coral and Ayesha was atrocious and is an embarrassment to everything Jordan Peele, Tony Todd and Misha Green have ever done. The deaths looked unrealistic and were illogical except for Coral’s. Coral tried to cut the weave out, of course it would attack her in the name of self-preservation, but what did Edna and Ayesha do??? What, the weave is smart enough to make sure there aren’t any witnesses??
Even the “hair battle” between Zora, Anna, Sista and others towards the end of the movie is absurd. If Justin was trying to be funny, it didn’t work. If he was trying to be campy, it didn’t work. The budget for this film was $8.9 million and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what Simien spent that money on.
He doesn’t know the genre of horror well and it shows. If he wanted to make horror funny, he should’ve studied A Haunted House. If he wanted to make horror campy, he should’ve studied American Horror Story: 1984. If he wanted to make a brilliant horror movie, he should’ve studied Get Out and Us. It’s clear he didn’t study any of these pieces.
At the end of the film, Simien tries to tie up the enslaved folklore arc, but that fails too. You can’t give ten lines of dialogue to something that meaty and think you’ll serve the subject matter well. If Justin had fully explored this folk tale and given it more screen time, it would’ve made for a more well-rounded film. The movie ends with the now-tired trope of the horror continuing and I am officially too through with this movie.
I’ve loved horror, particularly horror movies starring Black characters, ever since I can remember. Horror comforts me, nourishes me and is my favorite thing to watch on a Friday night. The actresses in Bad Hair deserved better, especially Vanessa Williams after all the dues she’s paid. This movie is so bad it offends me. Justin Simien did the genre I love, and a bunch of Black actresses, so wrong and for that, he deserves to lose at least a pint of blood at the strands of the finest pack of Brazilian Remy.
P.S. The Janet Jackson knockoff performance Kelly Rowland did and the knockoff Guy performances The Fellas did are disrespectful to all involved, especially Janet Jackson and Guy.