Welcome to the second part of our series, where we recommend alternatives to highly-anticipated new releases. Today is about Bad Hair, a film which premiered on Sundance early on in the year, but didn’t get into wide distribution yet. Bad Hair is Justin Simien’s second feature, an 80s set comedy-horror about a weave with a mind of its own. There isn’t much additional information about the film, except for the short cryptic teaser the director posted on his instagram.
Dear White People (2014) & Dear White People (2017- )
The obvious start is Simien’s debut feature, also a Sundance hit. The film tells the story of Sam White (Tessa Thompson), a black student and activist on her Ivy League university. It’s a genuinely funny comedy that’s deeper than your basic, surface-level race commentary, although it didn’t age really well. It’s rough around the edges, obvious that the writer/producer/director was just starting out, which is why it’s a good thing the concept was later refined and updated for a Netflix show of the same name. Both are worth the watch, but the episodic version of Dear White People reigns superior.
When talking about black horror, it’s impossible not to mention Candyman. The early 90s slasher, apart from thrills, also provides a commentary on race that only feels outdated by how toned down it is. Tony Todd plays the titular character and makes for a layered, captivating antagonist who’s not just all bad. Similar to the monsters of the old times, Candyman is a failed hopeless romantic with a horrible past. That said, the film is still pretty scary to this day. Especially the goddamn bees.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror IX (1998)
A killer hair film is about as original as one can get. However, in the future-predicting style of The Simpsons, they also managed to cover this story some two decades ago. Treehouse of Horror IX, the 4th episode of the 10th season starts with Snake Jailbird getting sentenced to an electric chair, but not before he swears revenge on a few Springfield residents. After Snake’s execution his hair gets on Homer’s head via a transplantation, ready to enact vengeance from beyond the grave.
Quite possibly the weirdest, most unique film about an inanimate object as the protagonist. Set in the Californian desert Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber tells the story of a tire on a murderous rampage, killing everyone who dares to stand it its way, that’s equally hilarious and horrifying. It’s an evil piece of rubber; what more is there to want from a film?
Even though more horror films each year include black people as something other than a throwaway side character, there are arguably only two big, mainstream black-led horrors of the recent years and both came from the mind of Jordan Peele. Get Out had a surprisingly big moment in a spotlight, even winning an Oscar. However, for this list I chose his second feature, Us, as I feel that it doesn’t get the love it deserves and because, out of Peele’s two films, Us is better.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II is the best horror comedy of all time. Objectively. It takes maybe 5 minutes to set things up, then it gets absolutely crazy and manages to stay at that level, and make it entertaining for the next 80-ish minutes. While Evil Dead is a straight-up horror that only gained humour over time and Army of Darkness (the third part) is an action comedy with some creepy imagery, the second part hits that goldilocks zone. There is no distinction between horror and comedy. The horror is the comedy.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
If Evil Dead II is the best horror comedy, then The Cabin in the Woods takes the second place. It is an excellent homage and parody of the classic horrors, while also being wholly original. If you don’t know the film, go into it blind. The less you know the better. The film gave Drew Goddard his rightfully earned stardom. It is excellent – both hilarious and scary in the right moments. From the first moment up until the very end, The Cabin in the Woods is just so much fun.
When talking about hair and horror in one sentence, no other film comes to mind quite like Ringu. Sadako, the pale ghoul with hair covering her face, is one of the most iconic horror characters in history. Hideo Nakata’s horror about a cursed videotape introduced Japanese horror, along with the antagonists known as yūrei or onryō, to an audience broader than ever before. The film was influential and successful enough to spawn 7 sequels and 3 American interpretations of the story.
I imagine the reason Bones was made was because some producer and/or big studio executive wanted to have a film they could label ‘the blackest black horror’, which sounds terrible and most certainly hasn’t aged well. This is blaxploitation above anything else, starring Snoop Dogg as the titular Jimmy Bones, a murdered gangster who comes back as a ghost to enact revenge. Bones features all the tropes of an early 2000s horror films as well as all the tropes of a film set in a poor black neighbourhood. Still, there’s something entertaining about it. Admittedly a dumb movie, but worth seeing for the batshit crazy third act.
In Fabric (2018)
Peter Strickland is a fantastic visual storyteller making some of the prettiest films of the past years, even if he can’t quite get his point across. His latest, In Fabric, is a horror meditation on modern consumerism wrapped in a story of a killer dress – more darkly humorous than dark. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll know what to expect, because In Fabric plays like a mix between The Duke of Burgundy and the original Suspiria. The film is soaked in fetishistic deep reds, paying homage to Dario Argento and giallo films of that era.
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs tells the story of a young black kid named Fool, whose family is threatened with eviction. He accepts an offer to break into the house of his landlord and steal from him, in order to pay rent. However, he finds something – or rather someone – evil living inside and the supposedly easy break-in turns to a game of cat and mouse. The People Under The Stairs is a dark adventure film in the vein of Stand By Me or the recent IT reboot, with similarly great characters, that uses class warfare and racial inequalities as the setting for its scares.
Exte: Hair Extensions (2007)
Exte is one of the films that the director of Bad Hair cited as his influence, and for a good reason. This is a seriously hair-heavy film, as the story revolves around cursed hair extensions. It may sound silly, but once you watch it you’ll see it’s anything but. Sure, it is full of wacky, weird characters, however Exte also has a strong emotional centre in its protagonist, an aspiring hairstyling Yuko (Chiaki Kuriyama). In all seriousness, this is one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable films I’ve ever seen. It also does wonders as a persuasion to finally shave/cut your hair.