When horror and satire collide, it can be a disaster, teetering on the edge of just too much violent and bloody gratification. But when these two genres are done well, they can very pleasing. Writer and director Justin Simien is known for his satirical comedy, Dear White People, which was later adapted into the TV series of the same name. Simien knows how to create a satire and make it so that it now only opens your eyes wider but can also scare the hell out of you in more ways than one.
Set in 1989, Anna is trying catch a break in the fast-paced world of television. Having worked 4 years as an assistant at a television station featuring African-American music artists, she almost gets her chance to shine when she impresses the new head of programming, Zora. But Zora wants to change the image that the channel projects gently enforcing that Anna get a weave, hiding her natural hair. At first Anna’s new hair makes an impact in her work and life until her hair starts drinking blood and taking over her body. But she’s not the only one experiencing these terrifying changes.
There are multiple ways to watch this film but taking it as a satirical horror, the truths that lie beneath the surface are chilling to the bone. Watching as Anna struggles to move up in an industry she clearly loves and knows a lot about is frustrating but the bumps and curves she is thrown are things we already know about the television industry. But the in-between moments where her new hair nearly destroys her life, this is where the comedy lies and darkly brilliant. Having possessed evil hair be the villain of the film is incredibly imaginative and even though its set in 1989, there are feels and attitudes that are relevant to today. The horror elements to this film are far more sinister and like most truly horrific things, they stem from folklore and history. The story of the Moss Haired Girl haunts Anna throughout until it becomes more and more apparent there is something sinister happening. As more and more women get their weave put in, the changes take over. But the trail of blood leads all the way back to where the hair actually comes from and that is the most chilling part of the film.
Featuring a fantastic cast, a few that featured in Simien’s Dear White People too, Vanessa Williams is brilliantly cast as Zora, the wasp-ish boss that seems like any other in a position of power but in truth she is just as vulnerable as Anna. Elle Lorraine as Anna is the stand out of the film, playing the underdog at work, relationships, family and even to herself. But she flips a switch so easily when becoming the evil version of her character possessed by the hair, it’s a very exciting watch.
Dripping with satirical comments, including the title, throughout the film, Justin Simien knows exactly what he wants to say and how to say it. This time it’s through horror and the subject of Black women’s hair, something very few writers would have thought to make an entire horror comedy about. A unique take that we should all take note of.
Bad Hair is released on Digital 5th July and on DVD & Blu- Ray 12th July