Nobody is as they appear in the hypnotic first trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale, a ’60-set thriller noir from writer-director Drew Goddard (2012’s The Cabin in the Woods).
In this tense first look at the film, in theaters Oct. 5, seven strangers — all guarding secrets they may well take to the grave — gather at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a dilapidated hotel with a dark past of its own. And though this trailer holds its most intriguing cards close to the vest — murder! hidden mirrors! a shirtless Chris Hemsworth! — they might not be back for a return stay.
Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm returns to the ’60s for this flick, playing a vacuum salesman. His character checks into the El Royale alongside a downtrodden priest-but-almost-definitely-not-a-priest (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo), two sisters on the lam from the law (Dakota Johnson and Cailee Spaeny), and an enigmatic cult leader (Hemsworth, who recently said it was “one of the best scripts he’s ever read”).
Also in the cast are Lewis Pullman (as a young concierge) and Nick Offerman (in a seemingly small role, based on that trailer).
Describing Bad Times to EW, Goddard (who earned an Oscar nomination for his script for The Martian) called the film “a love letter” to crime fiction and film noir. “I’m just a fan of the genre, so I don’t overthink it,” he said. “I just trust in my love of crime fiction and let that seep in.”
The El Royale is certainly an intriguing setting; Goddard has revealed that it straddles the Nevada/California border, meaning that gambling is legal on one side, while drinking is legal on the other. The characters, he teases, are being watched. But by whom? Bad Times unfolds over the course of one night as secrets come to light and the guests’ real intentions are revealed, though the notoriously twist-prone writer-director is loath to reveal much more than that.
“I knew this was going to be a hard movie to pitch,” he explains. “I just went and wrote it on spec so I could just hand them the document and say, ‘Here’s what it is.’ Anything in one-sentence form was going to sound trite.”
What hooked his impressive ensemble cast, Goddard adds, is “the sense of danger” Bad Times contains when compared to franchise films that are often busily setting up the next installment.
“That’s what movies are missing — I can watch these movies and know where they’re going to go, because they have to support the franchise, so there isn’t a true danger, one that movies that are wholly original have,” he said.
“Edgar [Wright]’s Baby Driver comes to mind; what was wonderful about that movie is you genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen, because there’s no blueprint for it. It’s all about the danger these days, man.”
Bad Times at the El Royale opens Oct. 5.