A movie relies on a lot of things to be successful, but one thing it relies on to capture audiences that does not get talked about nearly enough is the atmosphere. A movie can be the most horrifying thing ever put on a screen, but if it’s bright and fluorescent and lacks that eerie feeling, it might miss its mark and get depicted as something less horrifying than intended. Atmosphere can do so much for a movie, and, thankfully, Stewart Thorndike’s (Lyle) newest feature, Bad Things, captures the essence of something truly terrifying while giving off The Shining vibes to truly capture the horrors that unfold throughout these 83 minutes.
A group of friends, consisting of Ruthie (Gayle Rankin), Cal (Hari Nerf), Maddie (Rad Pereria) and Fran (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), decides to take a much-needed break from the world and escape to this abandoned hotel in the outskirts of the city. While it is Cal who convinces Ruthie, their partner, to not sell the hotel they inherited that is plagued with horrible memories, no one could have prepared themselves for the horrors that unfolded on their visit. With tensions flaring between all our characters and relationships being tested, everything is at stake as we start to realize the hotel and its former residents are haunting our group of characters and not everything is as it seems.
There is something special about Bad Things in that, aside from just focusing on our cast of characters, the movie makes its entire environment a character as well. The hotel becomes part of the cast, the aesthetic and coloring of the hotel is eerie and unsettling creating a fake sense of stability while still haunting the audience. Even when things appear to be stable and normal, the sheer and utter chaos that unfolds keeps the characters’ fates uncertain. For a film like Bad Things, it is so important for the setting to capture the audience as well. This setting is pure magic and adds to the madness that Stewart Thorndike wants the audience to feel and explore.
Alongside the mythical and terrifying essence the hotel itself brings to the movie, the entire cast brings forth an uneasy feeling throughout the feature. While the film does mostly focus on Gayle Rankin (GLOW), who breathtakingly captures the audience and takes them on a journey of sheer terror and exploration of chaos, Hari Nerf (Assassination Nation) also captures the audience to terrify them to their core as no one is safe in this hotel. They both manage to convey the terror that they’re experiencing through their body language and delivery throughout their performances. While Rad Pereria (Fernanda) and Annabelle Dexter-Jones (Ravage) are also incredible throughout Bad Things, the entire cast rounds out a hauntingly beautiful, terrifying film that will surely shake the audience to their core.
There is never a moment throughout Bad Things where the audience is at ease, it just slowly letting us descend into an uncomfortable state of nerves and a feeling that cannot be shaken off. Bad Things is simply one of those rare horror movies that is going to divide audiences tenfold, but the audience that connects to this film, gets sucked into the characters and is then left lingering with the state of nightmare that these characters experienced, will propel Bad Things to the status of a modern horror classic that will go down as a masterclass in storytelling and acting. Stewart Thorndike has something truly special on their hands in Bad Things.
For more information, head to the official Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Bad Things webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.