‘Bad Things’ Is The Queer-Femme Hotel Horror Movie Of Your Liminal Nightmares [Tribeca 2023 Review]

Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The easiest way to summarize Bad Things is to explain it as a femme disruption of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The success of this project lies in its ability to frame its location and evoke a rarely seen-on-screen liminality that haunts both its characters and audience, even when the substance of its story and performances are somewhat inconsistent.

Following a group of four friends as they spend a weekend at a snowbound and empty resort, Bad Things is finely focused on its protagonist (Gayle Rankin), who’s inherited the outdated hotel and is being pressured by her girlfriend (Hari Nef) to reopen it. At the same time, her mysterious unseen mother is keen on her selling. The weekend quickly goes awry when ghosts of the past resurface, and Rankin’s unreliable narrator begins to lose control. 

Writer and director Stewart Thorndike has crafted a visually striking horror film unlike anything you’re likely to encounter anytime soon. The way she captures the abandoned hotel setting is startlingly effective and responsible for a lot of the impressive heavy lifting. Anachronistic fleshy pinks and warm beige sweep through the mysterious story, and a sense of haunted nostalgia carefully curates every shot of this gorgeously crafted shadowplay. The ornate classicism of The Overlook is replaced by a cheaper, liminal airport hotel vibe that feels so real you can almost smell the heavy chlorine, soiled wallpaper, and dusty drapes. 

Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The visuals are so effective they generally color-correct the writing, which oscillates between prestige murder mystery and clunky arthouse madness. So many elements of the story work exceptionally, but I found that Thorndike’s script is struggling to make up its mind about what sort of film it wants to be. Ultimately, it’s wearing too many hats to be effective. There’s a daring and unpretentious slasher movie lost in the weeds here that I would have loved to have seen explored in better detail. 

Another inconsistency is the performances. Rankin is a powerhouse, shredding through each scene like a force of nature: mostly quiet, sometimes loud, and always completely magnetic to behold. And maybe it’s difficult to gage the others standing so close, but not all of the ensemble is able to keep up the pace. Nef is fascinating and, just like the film itself, is sometimes brilliant and other times stiff and heavy-handed. That said, it was a privilege to watch a femme ensemble lead such a striking and compelling genre offering. 

Ultimately, Bad Things is a jarringly original cinematic experience that’s worth investigating if you have a little bit of patience and find liminal horror as compelling as I do. And while it might take it itself too seriously, the haunted nostalgic visuals created by Thorndike are worth the price of admission to this hotel of horrors.

  • Bad Things


‘Bad Things’ is a femme disruption of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining,’ replacing the ornate Overlook with dreary airport hotel liminality.



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