Bad times begin as strangers, each with their own secrets, meet at the El Royale: a remote hotel at the border of Nevada and California, also holding its own secrets, with one troubled receptionist at the front desk.
Do we remember this from somewhere?
Notice that the film has strong references to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. After its huge success, many filmmakers have admitted to be inspired by the film, and its distinctive elements can no longer be used without admitting a reference to the masterpiece.
In addition to the resemblance between the settings, there are stuffed bears and rams at the El Royale, similar to iconic stuffed birds of Bates Motel. Killing off a main character in the middle of the film is another similarity between the two. I believe the use of such key elements from one of the greatest works of cinema helped the film with keeping the audience attentive for 2 hours and 21 mins. The apparent difference between the two is that this time, the guests are not solely the victims.
In Psycho, Hitchcock introduces a new main character halfway into the film. In Bad Times at the El Royale, this character is Billy Lee; an evil cult leader with shredded abs. The anti-religious leader who ironically seems to have gathered people around his own religion appears in several scenes with a halo around his head.
Along with all their unfinished business, none of the characters get to finish telling their sentences before getting killed, except Miles, whom I think deserved to say his final words and be “pardoned”.
With guns, lies, and beautiful songs, the film is about earning your redemption despite, and sometimes with, your secrets.