Dear White People’s Justin Simien presents a satirical horror movie that is as prescient today as in its 1989 setting. Anna Bludso, a wannabe VJ for the black cable music channel The Culture, who unknowingly makes a deal with the devil to succeed in her chosen career. The secret to that success is good hair, and there’s only one salon in Los Angeles that can provide it, especially to a girl whose hair has been troublesome her whole life.
Elle Lorraine is great as Anna, who carries her vulnerabilities with her as she tries to climb the corporate ladder, and she engenders genuine sympathy for Anna’s put-upon nature that has you rooting for her to get a win. Standing in her way is new channel head Zora, played to perfection by Vanessa Williams, who all but reprises the role that relaunched her career in Ugly Betty, and Williams’s performance is just the right side of camp to ensure that the film works as a moral horror story and a fun comedy.
With appearances from Usher, Kelly Rowland, and James van der Beek, Bad Hair isn’t short on star power, and it makes the most of its cast in a swipe at the corporatisation of black culture, and the pressure for black women to fit into narrow societal norms of beauty. Quite simply, this is a fun film with a message, and some suitably-ropey special effects that should have been made in 1989 but thankfully has finally been made in 2020.