Bad Things Writer-Director on Her Molly Ringwald Horror Film


Molly Ringwald, ladies and gentlemen! Actually, her new movie, Bad Things from writer-director Stewart Thorndike, has plenty to offer beyond the Pretty in Pink actress’ scene-stealing turn. The head-spinning psychological horror film, which hits the masses this week, is a unique blend of references to scary movie classics as well as commentary on modern motherhood. It’s a female-driven tale that will leave you wanting more — but fret not, as Thorndike has additional, similar projects lined up.

In the meantime, Bad Things will tickle the fancy of cinephiles everywhere. It centers on a group of friends who spend the weekend in an abandoned hotel that Ruthie (Gayle Rankin) has inherited from her family. Ruthie wants to sell it, but her partner Cal (Hari Nef from HBO’s The Idol) wants to fix it up and keep it. As the couple and their friends party in the hotel over a booze-filled couple of days, each of them begins to find themselves falling victim to larger forces at play within the hospitality institution, which may or may not lead to “bad things” happening to themselves and others.

We recently caught up with Thorndike, who dished on her latest feature which serves as a sort of “part two” of a trilogy she’s been working on, with all three films centered around motherhood in some form or another. First came Lyle in 2014, and after Bad Things comes an upcoming film called Daughter — details below. Thorndike also detailed the perks of working alongside Ringwald and more.

From The Shining to Alien

Just as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining becomes so much more than just a movie about a creepy hotel, Bad Things takes on a variety of meanings by the time the end credits roll. “I was wanting to direct films that were about motherhood,” Thorndike told us. She continued:

“So Lyle (2014) was the first one. And that was really about wanting to be a mom… my fears of being a mom, or if I was allowed to be a mom. And then this one [Bad Things] looks at it from a different perspective, where the film is really about the presence of the mother, and this giant presence that mom can be in this kind of this epic relationship.”

Related: The Most Terrifying Moms in Horror Movies, Ranked

The filmmaker elaborated on the sort of commonality that comes with motherhood — something we all have in common, despite our differences. “Universally, the mother is a much bigger influence, kind of our first relationship we ever have,” said Thorndike. “Every one of us has in common that we were with our moms on day one, for at least a minute. It’s your first relationship. So it’s really about directing a film that was about capturing that power.” She went on:

And I also wanted to see a place where women and nonbinary people could kind of shed some of the way that we are conditioned to behave in society, and just explore all these different complicated and large feelings, and not be subtle or not be polite. And rage was OK in this world. Rage was embraced.

And on the matter of Kubrick, one doesn’t have to be a film buff to see the parallels with Thorndike’s Bad Things. “The movie has all these nods and samplings of The Shining, for sure. And I never looked at the movie or owned that as I was directing it, but I was not afraid to let that happen when it did. And I really think that I love The Shining so much that it entered my bloodstream. But there’s also stuff that I want to force a different perspective on,” said Thorndike. “I really look a lot to just my world and outside art, and people and moments, a weird picture that might freak me out, some family laughing and eating their Cheerios, and looking a little too happy.”

Beyond Kubrick, other classics from entirely different groundbreaking directors came to mind for Thorndike as she crafted Bad Things. “I did think of Alien, like the beginning and how they’re just all kind of getting along. And it’s so natural. You feel all of this history between them in the way they’re like sharing coffee and using space,” Thorndike told us. “It’s just so real in this very articulated new world, a spaceship. And it still feels real in this very bold, designed world, and I wanted that. And then, I did think of Possession, and I thought of On the Waterfront. There are just these kinds of elaborate, balletic, moving scenes where we’re using props, using your body, letting yourself express what’s going on psychologically.”

Related: Best Movies About the Horrors of Motherhood

Great to See You, Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald in Bad Things (2023)

And speaking of throwbacks — none other than former John Hughes regular and All These Small Moments star Molly Ringwald suits up to play the seemingly domineering mother of Ruthie in Bad Things. One can’t help but think of Ari Aster’s latest headscratcher Beau Is Afraid when pondering this sort of mother-child dynamic. Ringwald looks terrific these days and nails the part in Thorndike’s new film. “It was so wonderful working with Molly, and it was such a dream to get her for this part. I needed some super talent, iconic, hot, incredible talent to play that part. And Molly Ringwald kills it,” said Thorndike.

And she was just a total artist and collaborator, from talking about her outfit to the kind of business that she’d do. One of my favorite moments in the movie is just when she says, ‘Do you think you might be imagining it?’ And Ruthie nods and says, ‘I do some bad things sometimes.’ And Molly is like, ‘Well, who doesn’t?’ And she’s texting at the same time. And I just thought that was the coolest choice.

Another standout in Bad Things is Jared Abrahamson (Ramy, American Animals) — and not just because he’s really the only dude in the film. He fills the role wonderfully as Ringwald’s young lover, who shows up unannounced to the hotel while the girls are partying to merely stir the pot. Said Thorndike on his performance:

“Jared is just so incredible, and he really took one for the ladies in this film and understood that he was playing the part that usually a woman would play, a young woman would play in a horror film where we’re just going to savor watching him run for his life with his boobs showing in a torn shirt. So I really wanted to play with that, you know? He took it so seriously. And he’s such a talent, a huge talent and was so great in it. And I love him for that. He also just cracks me up.”

Looking ahead, Thorndike is excited to continue exploring the complexities of motherhood with a new project in the works. “I’ve got my third in the trilogy, which is called Daughter, which is a kind of love triangle between a perfect mom, her teenage daughter, and a woman next door, an older woman who may or may not be a witch,” Thorndike told us.

But in the meantime, Bad Things will start streaming on Shudder and AMC+ this Friday.

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