Drew Goddard, the writer of Cloverfield and the director of The Cabin in the Woods, is someone who’s constantly thinking outside of the box. When other writers ask “why?” Goddard asks “how?” How can we make a found footage movie that’s also one of the best kaiju films of all time? How do we make a horror film that’s also a deconstruction of every other horror film ever made? How do we strand Matt Damon on Mars and not make it boring? These are all questions Goddard has answered with some of the most thoroughly entertaining films of the last decade. His work consistently speaks for itself, and with Bad Times at the El Royale – Goddard’s second directorial outing – he seems to be exploring some themes present in his previous works.
According to a synopsis of the film:
Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at a run-down hotel in Lake Tahoe in 1960s California. Over the course of a fateful night, they all get one last shot at redemption before everything goes wrong.
The cast – which includes Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Nick Offerman, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth – is a doozy, and each is playing a wholly unique character that brings something different to the table. What that is, we don’t know. Realistically, we have no idea what this movie is actually about. The trailer does a great job at showing us a lot while telling us very little. At one point, we see Hamm’s character finding a hidden passageway that gives him full access to see inside everybody’s room without their knowledge.
As I said before, Goddard is definitely treading some familiar territory here. The voyeuristic aspect of Cabin in the Woods was a big part of what made it so memorable. The employees observing them from the command center were able to wield the elements in their favor, thereby moving the story in whatever direction they wanted to. I’m betting that Goddard’s inclination to, at the very least, approach the fourth wall will be present in Bad Times at the El Royale, as well as an intricate web of secrets that lead to massive reveals and operatic blasts of violence – almost like a Tarantino movie but without all the close-ups of feet.
Conceptually and stylistically, El Royale looks pretty similar to Hotel Artemis, another film about a group of potentially violent individuals who are forced into the same confined space for an extended period of time. And hey, both films were directed by a guy named Drew. Unfortunately, the latter Drew’s film was kind of a letdown, but I have high hopes for Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s got everything a good movie should have: intrigue, crime, deceit, a good cast, and Drew Goddard at the helm.
Bad Times at the El Royale hits theaters on October 5th, 2018.
Images: 20th Century Fox