IYHWrestling.com | WithoutYourHead.com

Diablo Joe Reviews Bad Things

Posted in Diablo Joe Reviews by Neal at 04:12, Sep 15 2023

"Bad Things"
review by Diablo Joe

Audio version

"Bad Things"

Director Stewart Thorndike is one of many emerging talents creating horror that incorporates decidedly fresh (and welcome) perspectives. Her debut feature, “Lyle,” won acclaim at Outfest in 2014, and her newest and well-anticipated film, “Bad Things,” debuts this month on Shudder. Whereas “Lyle” took inspiration from the classic “Rosemary’s Baby,” here Stewart finds her muse in “The Shining,” the horror masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick, with whom Thorndike had worked with as an actor on his final film, “Eyes Wide Shut.”

“Bad Things” follows a group of four friends, led by Ruthie, a young woman who has inherited a hotel reputed to be haunted. Along for the ride and helping her with the vacant inn are her girlfriend, Cal, and friends Maddie and Fran. As their stay progresses, strange things begin to happen, and the group’s dynamic unravels and becomes tenser and distrustful. When things turn deadly, the four must figure out if one of them has gone over the edge or if the evil that haunts the hotel is to blame.

“Bad Things” opens with a menacing shot of Ruthie (played by “Glow” actor Gayle Rankin) wielding a huge chainsaw. The whole image is a feint, a fake-out that is just the character about to use it to free their trapped car. But it is a bit indicative of the film as a whole, which starts off promising, but ultimately leaves its audience feeling a bit cheated, deceived, and, well, confused. It’s fine to leave questions unanswered and thematic plot points up to a viewer’s discretion and interpretation, but “Bad Things” seems to have too much and too little at the same time. The pieces are there, but they never quite seem to connect with one another.

This is a shame because there’s a sense that Thorndike genuinely wanted to give us a psychological twist on the Overlook and the Torrence family, but within a female-centric, LGBTQ framework. Instead, “Bad Things” shoehorns in too many nods to Kubrick’s classic and not enough coherency to its own narrative. From its wintery setting (though far from as stately a hotel as the Overlook) to its pair of women jogging in unison taking the place of “The Shining’s” iconic twins, Ruthie’s inability to break from her former lover Fran paralleling Jack’s alcoholic past to Molly Ringwald as Ruthie’s power-suited vamp of a mother figure standing in for Lloyd the Bartender, Thorndike has populated the film with borrowed tropes rather than inspired fresh twists. There’s even mother’s milk running in place of blood.

The cast is solid, for the most part. Rankin, joined by skilled actors such as Hari Neff, a particularly outstanding Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Rad Periera, and of course, Ringwald, are all well cast and excellent for much of the picture. But when it comes to the terror, Thorndike may have been trying to elicit Shelley Duvall-level fear from her performers without resorting to Kubrick’s psyche-breaking directorial technique (or benefitting from Duvall’s sheer brilliance). The result comes across as less than convincing, with Neff (a fine actor otherwise), in particular, struggling to deliver.

Thorndike is obviously talented and has a love of the genre, but she would benefit from setting aside her slavish tributes to better allow her own voice and ideas to come through. There are hints of the director’s perspective that peek through the cracks, but not enough to overcome “Bad Things” homages. The result is a film that is more memorable for its use of a CPAP mask as a killer’s disguise rather than some bold statement or take on horror that the director intended to make.

This devil of a reviewer gives “Bad Things” 2.5 out of 5 imps.

WYH on Tunein.com
WYH on Facebook