Bad Times at the El Royale

Concierge: “I’ve done horrible things.”

Priest: “So has everybody. Sh#t happens, get the whiskey!”

In Lake Tahoe’s aging hotel (the El Royale), seven strangers arrive from different corners of the US. There is Daniel Flynn (the aging priest), Jeff Bridges (Darleen Sweet), a singer headed to Reno (Cynthia Erivo), Emily Summerspring, a southern belle turned criminal on the run (Dakota Johnson), Seymour “Laramie” Sullivan, a vacuum cleaner salesman (Jon Hamm), Rose Summerspring, Emily’s younger sister (Cailee Spaeny), Miles, a young concierge at the hotel (Lewis Pullman),  and Billy Lee, a hostile stranger on the hunt (Chris Hemsworth). The seven are drawn into a tangled web of deception, secrets, and, most damningly, murder. Over the course of one night, they are all offered a chance at redemption before everything goes to hell.

Bad Times at the El Royale is directed by Drew Goddard, who also serves as writer and producer. Goddard has written for several acclaimed television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and Lost. He also created the Netflix series Daredevil in coalition with Marvel Studios. He also wrote the script for the horror film Cloverfield, the action horror film World War Z, and the academy award nominated film, The Martian. He made his directorial debut with Cabin in the Woods, which he wrote and produced with director Joss Whedon. This is Goddard’s first solo project.

Bad Times at the El Royale appears to be an exercise in the classic group mystery film. There is something intriguing about the interaction between strangers. In a mystery film or thriller, there is something that draws you in more than a regular narrative. You are problem solving alongside the character. Good mystery films tend to treat their audience with more respect and trust their intelligence to be given information in order to begin to formulate the answer. Bad Times at the El Royale, with all luck, will carry this through and give the audience a mystery thriller to remember.