Bad Things (2023)

Bad Things (2023)

A promising start gives way to a muddled mess of ideas in this overambitious psychological horror



United States of America
Drama, Horror, Thriller
Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Gayle Rankin, Hari Nef
83 min


It’s like The Shining if it were queer and much less thrilling.

What it's about

When Ruthie (Gayle Rankin) inherits an old hotel from her deceased grandmother, she invites her girlfriend and their friends over to help her decide whether she should sell the property or keep it.

The take

Right off the bat, Bad Things looks gorgeous. Shot in 16mm, it plays with dreamy pastels and 1970s aesthetics, all while having its all-queer cast roam around the hotel’s haunted halls in mesmerizing ways. The setup is straightforward, but not too obvious: Ruthie’s problems with her girlfriend and her mother are exacerbated by the hotel’s strange and haunted aura. At this point, Bad Things hints at being an arthouse, slasher, and psychological thriller all at once, fueling anticipation for what’s to come. But as it moves along, nothing noteworthy happens. The awkward chase scenes and the overdramatic reveals kill whatever momentum the film has built, but the real problem is that it tries to juggle too many things at once. It’s creepy, but never achieves true-fright status. It’s bloody, but never fully commits to the gore. It’s smart and weird, but never goes beyond answering the very questions it poses. It’s happy to leave a lot of things unanswered, which in turn leaves us all confused, much less satisfied with what we’ve just sat through. 

What stands out

The cast’s chemistry seems effortless, making them likable despite all the supposedly bad things they do in the film. When they’re simply lounging and listening to music and playing with each other’s hair, I feel like that’s when the film is most watchable. Perhaps there is another version of Bad Things that doesn’t try too hard to be another cult horror movie, and instead develops the twisty relationship between these four characters, who are at once obsessed and hateful of each other.


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