Bad Times at the El Royale

Film, Thrillers
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard heads from ‘Cabin in the Woods’ to a blood-splattered hotel by a lake and reinforcing his rep as an original storyteller in the process.

Set in a neon-bathed Lake Tahoe hotel in 1969, this boldly original but frustrating noir is frontloaded with mysteries. What’s brought its four edgy guests to its doors? What’s the significance of the Nevada-California state line running smack down the middle? And why are the rooms bugged? You’d be giving it a fat zero on TripAdvisor – even before you tried getting the heroin-shooting bellhop to take your bags. 

The pulp-staple guests include a salesman (Jon Hamm), a priest (Jeff Bridges), a mysterious dame (Dakota Johnson) and a lounge singer (breakout Brit Cynthia Erivo). At least, that’s who they claim to be. You don’t even need the Richard Nixon speeches blaring in the background to feel the fug of paranoia hanging over the group.

The set-up holds you in its grip, aided by the eye-candy production design. But as writer-director Drew Goddard peels away the layers, it gets all tangled up in its own metaphors. If these false-fronted characters – and the hotel itself – represent something bigger, even a baggy final act isn’t long enough to figure out quite what it is. As with his first directorial effort, ace meta-horror ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, he has a blast toying with genre expectations, although here the payoff is a lot less satisfying. 

By: Phil de Semlyen


Release details

Release date:
Friday October 12 2018
141 mins

Cast and crew

Drew Goddard
Drew Goddard
Jon Hamm
Dakota Johnson
Cynthia Erivo
Jeff Bridges
Chris Hemsworth

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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1 person listening

Love all the intensity and suspense! And the first half of the film tells the story from multiple POVs, which makes the whole thing even more interesting!


Some excellent acting and well, there is Chris Hemsworth, I am sorry but he really does come across like a fish out of water in this film. Maybe star casting or maybe he's friends with the director but it's poor casting. Cynthia Erivo is excellent and Jeff Bridges does a pretty good turn as Jeff Bridges. There are so dark moments and some extreme, possibly unnecessary, violence. There is a Tarantinoesque tone to the whole film, but that's more distracting than anything else and it certainly has the length of a Tarantino film! It's a good 20 minutes too long. 

The sets and costumes are good but it just left me wanting less... ohhh and do not go to see if it you are going to watch Jon Hamm, he doesn't get a lot of screen time but either way his character is not well fleshed out.