Before the world premiere of Bad Hair at Sundance, Justin Simien stepped out on in front of a packed house at the Ray Theater and gushed about his love for films like Carrie and Rosemary’s Baby. That said, his latest feature can be described as many things: a psychological thriller, a satire and a horror, but he reveals that he made this film with one group of people in mind: black women.
In the film, he names characters after the strong black women in his life. His mom Anna, and his aunts Virgie, Edna and Zora. And with these characters, he wanted to “shine a light on the absurdities we are living in reality sometimes.”
With that, he used one of his favorite genres, his culture and personal life to tell a story that is more than just a horror film. “I hope I can do this genre that I am absolutely in love to interrogate the system that is obsessed with black culture but doesn’t give a fuck about black lives,” he said. “I hope I can use this genre to interrogate a system that mines black women for their culture, ideas, compassion, wisdom and perseverance but does not give them enough options to shine in this light.”
The film gives off some Brian De Palma energy mixed with B-movie delight is set in 1989 Los Angeles in which Simien said was “the year of the weave.” In it, newcomer Elle Lorraine plays Anna Bludso, who had a traumatic experience during her childhood when her scalp was burned from a mild relaxer perm. Fast forward to her adult life and she is working at a music video TV show called Culture, which is drenched in synthetic fabrics, ’90s hip hop flair and New Jack Swing. Amidst women in broad-shouldered blouses, her life is turned upside down when her dreadlocked boss is replaced by Zora (Vanessa Williams), a vicious ex-supermodel who looks to switch things up. When she warns Anna about her natural hair, she goes out and gets a weave from a bougie yet mystical hairdresser (Laverne Cox). She looks good and starts excelling at work with her new hair, but after a while it begins to have a bloody mind of its own — literally.