Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

A group of strangers descend upon a rundown hotel in Bad Times at the El Royale. El Royale is a hotel near Lake Tahoe, that is placed on the border between California and Nevada. One night, a group of strangers descend upon the hotel, including Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and her sister Rosie (Cailee Spaeny), salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (John Hamm), and hippie cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth). Each of these people have come to the hotel for their own reasons and it isn’t long before things start to go to Hell.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a Tarantino-esque thriller written and directed by Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods). The story of the film is told in multiple chapters, which reveals the backstory of each of the individuals staying at hotel. It turns out that there is a dark secret at the El Royale and the nervous bellboy Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) is desperate to confess his sins before it is too late. As the nights wares on, secrets are revealed and the stakes are raised and chances are not everyone will make it to the morning.

If you count the years it was on the shelf, it has almost been a decade since Joss Whedon collaborator Drew Goddard directed his meta-horror debut feature The Cabin in the Woods. For this sophomore effort Bad Times at the El Royale, Goddard presents a period thriller with a cast of characters, all of whom are not who they initially seem. Because of this, Bad Times at the El Royale is a film that is best seen knowing as little about the plot as possible.

While it might be a bit of a stereotype to say this, I have to admit that Bad Times at the El Royale is a Quentin Tarantino rip-off that is perhaps arriving two decades too late. While there is nothing all that wrong with the plot of Bad Times at the El Royale, it is the type of film that has been seen too many times before. Even the plot device of switching the point of view to the different characters has been done to death.

I will not go as far and say that Bad Times at the El Royale is a sophomore slump for Drew Goddard, but after the clever breakdown of horror tropes done in The Cabin in the Woods, you would almost expect him to treat a mainstream thriller in a similar fashion. As it stands, Bad Times at the El Royale is merely OK.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).