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Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

It’s like if Tarantino directed “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”

I feel that I need to preface this review by stating that as soon as I sat down in the theatre, I found myself in front of two women who were discussing which Hogwarts houses they were. So yeah, I knew I was in good company. They were also discussing the absurdity of Riverdale (2017 – present), so I almost got up and asked to sit with them. For future reference, I identify as a Hufflepuff, and believe that Jughead Jones is a menace to society who must be stopped.

By the way, I saw this movie at Imagine Cinemas on Carlton St., my favourite theatre in Toronto. It’s amazing, seriously, if you live downtown, always see movies there. The admission is a flat rate of $10, they serve alcohol, and there’s literally only ONE commercial before the trailers start (and none during). Imagine Cinemas gets me.

So, Bad Times at the El Royale…whoa Nelly, was this a wild ride.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 12.40.18 AM
Credit: / 20th Century Fox

The movie follows a group of seven strangers who for one reason or another, find themselves drawn to the titular hotel where a night of mayhem, murder, and mystery ensues. It’s equal parts Clue (1985), and Pulp Fiction (1994), in the best way possible.

Writer and director Drew Goddard, who crafted the horror hit, The Cabin in the Woods (2012), delivers a multi-layered thrill-ride that will leave you guessing from start to finish. Which is saying a lot, because boy, is this movie LONG. It clocks in at about two hours and 20 minutes, which is a little much, but you almost don’t mind. Like Clue, and Pulp Fiction, the movie wisely spends its time introducing and motivating our characters, which, if you recall, there are a lot of. That 140 minutes doesn’t feel nearly as long when you know it’s being devoted to what most movies throw away in a line of expositional dialogue.

The dialogue, or lack thereof, is one of the most interesting aspects of this movie. For long stretches of time, there is little to no sound. No dialogue, no background sounds, and no underlying score. It’s eerie, and thankfully, not entirely out of place. Only during especially suspenseful or revealing scenes will the sound disappear, increasing your level of discomfort, because you just know that some new twist is right around the corner. Oh my God, the twists…there were so many twists and turns in this movie that it would blow even Julie Chen’s mind.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 1.53.56 AM
Credit: / 20th Century Fox

During the first 20 minutes you get overloaded with so much information, and so many jaw-dropping revelations, that I asked myself multiple times, “whoa, but wait, how are they going to end this?” Don’t worry about it. Everything comes together quite nicely in the end. Just make sure you were paying attention to everything that was going on. I promise it’ll pay off. Keeping that and the long runtime in mind, make sure you go to the bathroom before heading in to the theatre. If you leave for even a minute, you’ll be lost. Believe me. I risked the integrity of my bladder to bring you this information.

More than anything, this movie is just cool to look at and listen to. Stylistically, I was reminded more than once of another hotel-set movie, Wes Anderson’s, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Bad Times at the El Royale is like The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s older, badass brother who brings a flask to the church picnic. The story takes place in 1969, so accompanying the stylish art-deco design of the hotel and the eye-catching costumes, is a soundtrack of era-appropriate gems that your dad is going to love. Right at the centre of that soundtrack is Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet, a struggling singer and one of the hotel’s guests.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 2.01.53 AM
Credit: / 20th Century Fox

She stole this movie, which is a near-impossible feat when you’re acting alongside the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, and a consistently-shirtless Chris Hemsworth. Erivo is a treasure, and I can’t wait to see, and hear, her in future projects. She has a leading role in the upcoming Widows (2018), a heist movie where Viola Davis leads a group of women to finish the job of their criminal husbands. Uh, yeah, you can bet your butt I’m going to see that.

If you’re like me, and a fan of twists, turns, murder, and mystery, go see this movie. Definitely go see it with friends so you can discuss the wonderfully weird rabbit-hole you just fell down. The spectacular script is only strengthened by a cast who is at the top of their game. I was pleasantly surprised by Dakota Johnson, whom I had previously only seen in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (2015 – 2018), a franchise that I’m proud-ish to say that I’ve seen every installment of. Wayback Wesdnesday?

What did you think of Bad Times at the El Royale? Was your mind blown as much as mine? Would you like to see me review the Fifty Shades trilogy?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!




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