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  Bad Hair Fear Of The Follicles
Year: 2020
Director: Justin Simien
Stars: Elle Lorraine, Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe, Kelly Rowland, Laverne Cox, Chante Adams, Ashley Blaine Featherston, James Van Der Beek, Michelle Hurd, Judith Scott, Yaani King Mondschein, Daheli Hall, Nicole Beyer, Blair Underwood, Vanessa Williams
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Anna (Elle Lorraine) remembers well the time when, as a little girl, her older sister tried to straighten her hair chemically in the bathroom and then effect was not as desired: so powerful was the treatment that it burned Anna's scalp. But those days are behind her and now it is 1989, and she has a job at a television company where her dream is to get on the air and present her own show, though the producers and executives don't agree that this would be a good idea. For one thing, she does not have the right look that black audiences on the cusp of the nineties really go for, she should do something about her hair, the natural look is out and straight locks are in. Should she get extensions to improve her image?

The question director Justin Simien was asking here was whether straight hair on black women was desirable, and that's a very politically loaded matter if you want it to be. The notion that women of colour really need to emulate their white counterparts and imitate their hairdos can be one charged with the racism issue, and evidently Simien was wanting to put it out there for debate with this comedy horror movie. There was one problem with that though, at least in the manner he went about it, and this was it was not funny, even with Lena Waithe dropped into various scenes to add a little sass and spark with the quips - she was too blatantly included to justify the humour tag this brought with it.

Really, what the film should have done was play it straight, like its most obvious influence Sion Sono's Japanese chiller Exte: Hair Extensions from 2007; sure, it was a ridiculous premise, but many horror scenarios could easily be played for laughs, and just because you could didn't mean you had to. Therefore anyone considering what this was about and anticipating a laugh riot was going to be disappointed, because it was as if Simien got halfway through writing the script and realised, wait a minute, I'm trying to be serious about this here, should I just ditch the gags and ramp up the suspense factor? Certainly there were murder sequences in this that were presented as if they were from your average shocker, like a slasher movie with a novelty death every twenty minutes or sooner, and they wouldn't make you laugh.

Well, someone getting stabbed to death with a broken wine glass wasn't very funny, anyway, and neither did it appear to be intended that way. The narrative roped in various links to the slavery business from over a century before, and while there were valid motives for this, it did not quite bear that weight when it turned into a runaround in the final act, and the leading lady fled from rampant hair through the corporation offices. You could understand what Simien was getting at, and every so often he had a decent way of presenting it such as Anna's visit to the upmarket salon that turns sadistically agonising, but maybe making a documentary like Chris Rock did was a better option - and that had already been done elsewhere as well. Nevertheless, it gave a platform to a subject many would never consider controversial, even if it diminished its important tone by crafting a daft horror out of it. Bad Hair never quite found its metier, but there was enough novelty for those intrigued by the plotline. Music by Kris Bowers.

On Digital 5th July // On DVD & Blu- Ray 12th July.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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