by Kim Singleton
One of the hot tickets at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival was the horror flick Bad Hair written and directed by Justin Simien (Dear White People) and starring actress Lena Waite. The movie follows the hair journey of Ana Bledso (Elle Lorraine). As a child she is traumatized, when her older sister severely burns her scalp while giving her a permanent relaxer. After the incident, Ana refuses to let anyone touch her hair, wearing it natural well into adulthood.
Set in 1989, Anna is working for Culture, a growing music television channel, where, despite her talent and desire to be one of the channels VJs, has been stuck as an assistant for 12 years. She didn’t have “the look” of the blunt and asymmetrical straight cuts that everyone was rocking at the time. The technique of the hair weave was introduced and made popular by recording artist, Sandra (Kelly Rowland). Women were in awe of how Sandra whipped her fake hair around and it didn’t fall off her head like a wig. Everyone was trying to get hair tracks that were sewn into braids, for that permanent, long-hair look, even though the process was expensive and painful.
Things changed for Ana when her boss is replaced by Zora (Vanessa Williams), a retired model hired to run the channel and take it in a new direction. Zora listens to Ana’s ideas to help grow the channel’s audience and also encourages her to change her natural hair look, as she says, ”if you want to be one of my girls.” Ana borrows $450 from her aunt to get her weave, foregoing paying her rent. After a painful process, she transforms into a professional with silky tresses and renewed confidence. But there is a larger price to pay. The sewn-in hair tracks have mystical powers. They come to life and feed off of blood. That’s right, blood! And some of the ways in which it feeds on blood is quite disgusting. It controls Ana’s actions, including having her commit murder. The more the hair gets nourished, the stronger it gets and ends up taking over everything. The movie becomes a race to escape the attack of the killer weaves!
In the midst of the horror, there are many funny moments. Brook-Lynne (Lena Waithe), a VJ at the channel delivers some of the best comedic lines, while trying to escape the menacing fake hair. Blair Underwood makes an appearance as Ana’s uncle, who gives her a book on folklore tales of enslaved women sewing moss into their hair to mimic white people’s tresses. Ana studies this book looking for answers on how to defeat the all-powerful weave that she is unable to cut out.
If you are one who likes campy horror flicks, this movie is for you. It may put you in the mind of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. The writer injects social commentary about our culture, however, it is not as cleaver and subtle as Peele’s movie. But then, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.