‘Bad Hair’ Sundance Movie Review: Little Weave of Horrors

Pretty much anything can become scary if you put “killer” in front of it. Bad Hair is more than just a killer hair movie. It’s Little Weave of Horrors. If a plant that thrives on blood can be a viable threat, then hair that wants the same can too.

Bad Hair
L-R: Yaani King Mondschein, Elle Lorraine, and Lena Waithe | Sundance Institute

Writer/director Justin Simien returns to Sundance after his triumph with Dear White People. That film spawned a Netflix series. Bad Hair is the next step in genre satire, using horror instead of comedy.

‘Bad Hair’ can kill you

Anna (Elle Lorraine) works at Cult, the black arm of MTV in this fictional 1989. Executives tell Anna she needs better hair to be on TV. Even more than on air work, her colleagues say she needs professional hair to impress the new boss Zora (Vanessa Williams).

So Anna buys a hair weave to make an impression. Virgie (Laverne Cox) squeezes Anna into her busy schedule and sells her an exotic Indian weave. Anna gets the attention she wants but the weave has a taste for blood. First the hair just suckles a paper cut, just like Audrey II when Seymour pricked his thumb on rose thorns. Soon it needs more than a few drops.

The horror of having bad hair

The scariest scene is not any of the hair murders. It’s the process of getting the weave itself. Simien films the weave in extreme closeup and makes it look like a Saw movie. Women get this all the time and they tough it out, but Simien makes the audience feel it. The poking and squishy sound effects will make you squirm, and the weaving itself does draw blood.

Bad Hair at Sundance
L-R: Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, James Van Der Beek, Elle Lorraine, Director Justin Simien, Robin Thede, Michelle Hurd, Ashley Blaine, Daheli Hall, Julia Lebedev, Producer Eddie Vaisman, Yaani King Mondschein, and Angel Lopez | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The hair kills begin as a sort of revenge fantasy. The audience will be on Anna’s side when her weave saves her from a would be rapist. When it goes after her cheating boyfriend you may be 50/50. That guy is trash but it’s not really an offense punishable by death.

Simien came up with fun ways hair can contort and turn itself into weapons. It looks like CGI but Simien says Tony Gardner (Chucky puppeteer) built hair animatronics that could attack the actors. The hair can contort itself into a deadly weapon, or use the environment to lead people to their doom.

The lesson is: be yourself

Bad Hair is a fun horror movie about the extreme dangers of compromising yourself to fit in. Bosses or colleagues should only judge the quality of your work whether your hair is curly or straight. And if Anna doesn’t work for you, you shouldn’t judge her at all. That’s a good message in any genre.

Justin Simien
Justin Simien | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

This is horror though, so of course there are deadly consequences for committing common human sins. If you pressure a woman to change her natural assets, don’t come crying if you get killed by evil hair. Perhaps in real life, the consequences for prejudice are more subtle, if they occur at all. The beauty of movies is you can make extreme points, so hopefully audiences get the message of Bad Hair while it scares them.