Warning: Major spoilers for Bad Hair are ahead.
Hulu’s Bad Hair is technically a period piece since it is set in 1989, but its commentary on natural hair is all too relevant. In 2020, Black women still feel pressure to change their natural hair styles because of the constant message society sends out that straight, long hair is “good hair.” In fact, California became the first state to pass the CROWN Act, or the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” Act, just last year to ban discrimination based on natural hair. Unfortunately for Bad Hair’s Anna (Elle Lorraine), this workplace bias is exactly what prevents her from achieving her music television dreams at her job. So, she decides to get a weave to solve her problems.
A horror comedy wherein the main villain is a weave — a legitimate pain — is long overdue, which makes the ending of Bad Hair incredibly more disappointing. While the film attempts to communicate a message about fake hair having power over Black women and dictating the mainstream definition of beauty, that point gets sidelined by the movie's typical horror and comedy elements. Bad Hair’s third act is as messy as the titular pile of hair, so allow me to clear it up for you.
Early on in Bad Hair, Anna learns about a slave folktale called "the moss haired girl." She initially brushes the story off as “ridiculous,” but it becomes her reality when her weave takes over her body and forces her to kill people that try to cut it out or harm her. The final scenes of the movie reveal that Anna, and all the Black women who visited Virgie’s (Laverne Cox) hair salon, have hair from witches. The follicles feed on blood to gain power so the witches can control Black women the way slave masters commanded slaves bodies. We learn this important information in a quick voiceover snippet of Anna reading a book, but it is too rushed for any of it to be completely understood or impactful. The film does not fully commit to exploring how weaves are another way for Black bodies today, like slaves of the past, to be restrained and tricked into not seeing their worth. That is the most terrifying aspect of the movie. Instead, Bad Hair leans into expected jump scares, cheap laughs, and an extremely high body count.
In the final act, Anna faces off against her boss Zora (Vanessa Williams), whose body has been completely overtaken by the witches, for over 10 minutes. Anna runs around the office repeatedly trying to escape Zora, a group of other possessed women, and their vicious locks. Meanwhile Brook-Lynne (Lena Waithe), a co-worker who wants to flee the building with Anna, has a few fake-out deaths to break up the suspense and add some humor. Waithe's character pretends to be one of the mind-controlled women on Zora's side, and, for the record, I wasn't laughing. Brook-Lynne’s appearance just drags out the unnecessarily long confrontation scene while we wait to discover how and why the hair is dangerous, if Anna or anyone will face consequences for the murders, and if these killer strands can be stopped. Two of these questions are barely answered and the rest are inconclusive.
While struggling to find a way out, Anna remembers Virgie warned her to not get her weave wet. She puts a lighter near a smoke alarm to activate sprinklers. The water minimizes the strength of the hair so Anna can cut out her weave. She sees Zora and the other women lying on the ground, shaking and gasping for breath. And that's it. Bad Hair never tells us if these women died or if they are still cursed.
The wasted minutes spent on Anna and Zora's fight forces the entire point of the movie — the hair metaphor — into a quick couple of lines in the last scene. So, the theme of the movie is brushed aside; the meaning is murky. Before the credits roll, Anna’s sister Linda (Chanté Adams) announces she is going to Virgie’s, and so the deadly cycle continues. This is also when we see Anna finishing "the moss haired" girl story. It is revealed that Grant Madison (James Van Der Beek), the head of the network where Anna works, continues the path started by his slave master ancestors by forcing Black people to collect the witch-cursed hair. There is also an image of a car filled with Black bodies but it is unclear where they came from or what is happening to them.
It feels like Bad Hair is missing a scene where Anna at least contemplated sharing what happened, especially with her family, to protect other Black women. Earlier in the movie, Anna apologizes to her former boss Edna for getting "caught up." She admits she pursued her dreams alone instead of working with Edna, another Black female, to accomplish their goals together. But the film ends with Anna reverting to her old, selfish ways by not warning Black women or doing anything with her knowledge. The apology and Anna's character development are weakened. The movie is unsure about Anna and the central idea.
Bad Hair draws out the Anna and Zora showdown at the expense of further leaning into the psychological dangers of Black women believing they have to change their natural hair. And yeah, it's also a B-movie style horror flick, but it's a B-movie style horror flick that seemed like it was trying to say something.