Having a Bad Hair Day!
Anna (Elle Lorraine) is a low-level peon at a struggling All-Black video TV channel in 1989. Her boss has just stepped down and the production department is going to be run by a new lady, Zora (Vanessa Williams), who is looking to cut jobs and change everything. Anna has her meeting with the new boss and surprisingly presents a great plan for getting more viewers. Zora loves the proposal and tells Anna that she’s saved her job and gotten a promotion, but Anna simply must do something about her appearance. In particular, her hair. A struggle since she was a child, Anna has difficult hair. Zora sends Anna to a special salon where she can get a weave. The woman running the hair studio is an odd duck but she takes pity on Anna and sews into her scalp a fine set of new hair. The thing is, the hair is gathered from dead witches, and it is seeking to take over her life. The hair needs blood to drink, to grow stronger day by day, and now Anna finds herself in situations where her lovely hair is killing people around her. Turns out, all the clients of this studio have witch hair sewn into their heads, and now the witches are taking over. Can Anna cut this invasive witch curse free and escape before she becomes a possessed plaything for the witches?
This is one wild, wacky, funny and scary flick. The 1989 setting is super-authentic; the fashion, the music, even the lingo. The characters are all well-drawn out, the most minor ones flourished with interesting details. Lorraine is great in her role, at once shy and awkward and yet strong and full of good ideas. Williams is tremendous as Zora, really chewing up the scenery when she’s on screen, but in a good “bad bitch” kind of way. Anna’s friends are all funny and entertaining and when people start dying, you really mourn their loss. The movie is fairly bright and breezy, funny in many ways, but when the horror hits, it does not hold back. In fact, there are several scenes that are downright terrifying. Using the folklore idea of the Mossy Haired Girl is really unique and pretty scary. There’s a lot going on with the politics of Black Hair in this film; the idea that African Americans have to look more “white” when it comes to their hair, is an old struggle that continues to this day. It’s mostly to do with black women and less with the men and this movie really exposes that raw nerve and exploits the dynamics of it to explore ideas of identity and race. If you don’t catch this, that’s fine. The movie works on a pure comedy/horror level. But don’t be fooled: this is a deeper and richer film than most will probably give it credit for.
Bad Hair is a terrific film by writer/director Justin Simien and I’m really looking forward to future work by him. He weaves the social commentary (see what I did there?) with expert skill into the comedic and horror situations like a veteran director. This movie has a bit of the feel of Sorry to Bother You mixed with the style of Def By Temptation. In any case, if you like a good film, you don’t have to look very far to find this one. It’s a real hair-raising scream!