Review: Bad Times At The El Royale

Remember that great but Bizarre film from 2012 called Cabin In The Woods? The project between Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard that managed to turn a common horror about teenagers in some spooky woods into a thriller about an illuminati-like organisation and the apocalypse? Well while Whedon had since gone on to Avengers (2012) and oddly enough, Justice League (2017) fame, Goddard had remained largely under the radar with that film remaining as his only directing credit… Until now…

Bad Times At The El Royale is new tale written and directed entirely by Goddard. It follows the events surrounding a group of strangers who all arrive to stay at a motel in the middle of nowhere. Quickly, the characters discover that the motel is also residing with many secrets in its history and some of its guests.

Watching the trailer, you’d be sold that the film was going to be somewhat of a comedy, intermixed with some 70’s style and action. For some potion of the film, however as plot developments come into play, the film manages to take on a more serious tone, not unlike Cabin In The Woods which also made use of genre-mixing. What’s great about this film is how it manages to blend through from the stylish and sometimes comedic moments, to its more serious plot twists and revelations, in an Edgar Wright sort of way.

Fans of the casting will not be disappointed either. Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm and even Dakota Johnson all manage to bring their characters to life in the ways of which only their respective actors could. Cynthia Erivo plays the protagonist, Darlene Sweet, although all characters are given their time to shine. Despite being completely unheard of before this film, Erivo brings a level of clam and gentleness to the lively and dramatic film. Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Charles Manson-Esque hippie-gone-psycho, Billy Lee, is genuinely terrifying. It really works in contrast with how Hemsworth is normally cast as ‘the hero’. Everything about his good looks, Physique, intelligence, physical strength and confidence really works to make his character appear almost larger than life.

As is probably apparent by this point I did rather enjoy this film. The use of style, cinematography and editing to tell a story was all there. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end…

However, there is still something missing…

Something a lot of big films have been missing recently. Cabin In The Woods had all of the same good pointers as ‘Bad Times’, but honestly, I watched the film once. Enjoyed it. and haven’t even considered watching it since.

It feels a lot like a Netflix original if you know what I mean. Brightly coloured, funny but mature in tone. Very widely appealing. But not very specific or ground-breaking in any genre or area though. No new ideas that we don’t learn from just watching the trailer. No messages. No big surprises or times when I was genuinely moved. As well made as it is, and as far up as it shoots, it never manages to hit that sweet spot of a moving picture that is actually… well… Moving.

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