When Justin Simien’s upcoming horror movie Bad Hair premiered at Sundance 2020, the premise ensured it was a hot-ticket screening: the creator and director of Dear White People had made a movie about evil weaves. In the film, set in 1989, TV executive Anna (Elle Lorraine) hopes to make it big as a VJ, but her new boss (Vanessa Williams) dismisses her natural hairstyle as behind-the-times, so Anna suffers through her first weave, at the hands of style maven Virgie (Orange Is the New Black breakout star Laverne Cox). From there, things go very poorly for Anna and her office.
In the movie’s first trailer, Bad Hair plays more like straight horror than anything else. But the actual film is deliriously complicated. It’s part camp comedy, part gory body horror, and heavily tinged with cultural commentary. As Simien said when we talked to him about the movie at Sundance, the wild mashup of Korean hair-horror and Get Out-style social critique may feel odd, but it’s entirely deliberate:
I love movies when there’s nothing else like them. We had to get used to Brian De Palma. We had to get used to Stanley Kubrick. We had to get used to Roman Polanski — I’m not going into the horrific nature of his real life and politics. As filmmakers, white men make us used to the art they make. So part of it is, these things feel right in my soul, so I’m going to blend them in the way that feels right to me. Dear White People was the same way.
When I rewatch some of my favorite movies, I’m surprised — I remember Carrie differently from when I watch it. Same with The Shining, and Body Snatchers, Dressed To Kill, The Wicker Man. They actually have these incredible screwball-comedy moments, and sci-fi moments and camp, B-movie elements. And they just go together. What’s the unifying thing about them all? That director is obsessed with all those things, so they just put them in their movies. That’s why Vertigo is so brilliant, even though nothing about it makes any fucking sense, or should work. Hitchcock was just truly obsessed with those things. I just wanted to give myself the experience of following that. Especially when it’s like, “No one’s tried to do this before, and I’m probably not supposed to do this.” That’s when I’m like, “Okay, I’m gonna do that.”
Bad Hair arrives to Hulu on October 23.