FILM REVIEW: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
BY GILBERTO CAMPA
Bad Times at the El Royale is written and directed by someone who is very familiar to me and after this movie is released will become a household name going forward to audiences everywhere. Drew Goddard has worked on and helped to create many movie and television projects that I love such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Lost, World War Z, The Martian, Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix and much, much more. His first movie The Cabin in the Woods was a game changer for the Horror genre back in 2012 as it was also a financial success grossing over 66 million dollars during its theatrical run.
This time around Goddard was hired by 20th Century Fox who brought his spec script for Bad Times and was announced as the director and the producer of the movie. The year is 1969 and seven strangers who on the surface may just be looking for a place to stay for the night have all checked into the famous El Royale hotel. Built right on the border between California and Nevada there is a lot to love about the hotel as it used to be “hustling and bustling” back in its heyday, with everyone from Dean Martin and the Ratpack to Governors, politicians and many more people enjoying a stay at the Royal.
The movie does have its similarities and homage’s to other films but what makes it stand out on its own is the way that this film was written and shot, besides the cast who all help to create a memorable experience. The period that the movie is set also plays a very important part since it was a different time and things worked just a little bit differently in the late 1960’s. The opening scene of the film immediately grabs you and gets you invested into the mystery behind what is to come without a single line of dialogue which is not easy to portray. Getting to the actual guest is where the fun begins as Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman and Chris Hemsworth (his darkest performance to date) all give tremendous performances.
What I really enjoyed about the movie was how much you really get invested in the characters and when things start to escalate (as you expect) it becomes incredibly difficult to lose focus which is all due to Goddard and his writing. Besides the characters in the hotel, the Royale itself is just as important a character as you got to explore the in’s and out’s of the entire establishment, along with the excellent job that Seamus McGarvey did with the lighting and the cinematography in key parts and sequences.
I’ve said it before in previous reviews but the music (in this case the soundtrack and the score) makes the movie as it is a vital part of the overall experience and is used in different ways that are unexpected and helped to drive the tension. Michael Giacchino continues to show why he is one of the most versatile composers with a very haunting and suspenseful score, and as a fan of music from that era it was great to sing along and tap my feet to some Deep Purple and Isley Brothers just to name a few. There is a reason why very little is known about the plot and the characters in the trailers that have come out, this movie is best going into it blind.