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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) Movie Summary and Review

A horror movie geek and fan of the genre. I have been writing for many years now mostly freelance.

Early 1970's Rundown Hotel is hiding a dark past

We see as a flashback to before this time, as a man shows up at the hotel. He sets up his room, and throughout setting up his room is greeted by someone at his door. As he answers it he is shot with a shotgun, and with the blast, we head to the current time.

Ten years later we see the El Royale Hotel, our first character introduced is an African American woman who has a lot of luggage with her. She walks in seeing a priest and they begin to talk. Father Flynn assists her with moving the luggage.

The hotel has a large visible red line splitting the hotel. A man sitting in the bar introduces himself as a salesman and hands Father Flynn and Darlene his card. He explains that since they lost their gambling license, the place has become a ghost town.

Darlene bangs on one of the doors and a young usher falls named Miles who is clearly flustered. He tells Father Flynn, this is no place for a priest. The usher then gives a speech about the hotel, describing the line that splits the hotel from California and Nevada. We hear a car screech to a stop outside as a woman with sunglasses comes in and pays for her room. Darlene gets her room and the salesman pays for room one.

Now we see the salesman as he enters and calls up his wife, then begins talking to his daughter. The salesman fidgets with the phone finding it to be bugged and finds that the whole room has multiple bugs within it. He then walks to the lobby grabbing on the keys and opening into the back rooms seeing Miles passed out in one of the rooms.

The TV states that the police are investigating the gruesome killing of a couple, who was stabbed to death in their home.

Farther into the back rooms, the salesman takes out a flashlight, seeing each room has a two-way window that looks into it. One of the rooms he sees as Father Flynn is removing the floorboards of his room. He then witnesses Darlene who is singing in her room. In the next room he sees as Emily pulls in a woman and ties her up to a chair. The salesman walks outside going to a phone booth, revealing he is in reality a special agent sent there.

Now in Room Five, but in the past as Darlene sings with two other African American women, as a cameraman takes pictures of the performance. After the performance, we see as a man giving Darlene the option to stay with him in a contract for five years to become famous or leave and try to make it on her own.

We go back to the present time knowing what Darlene's decision was. Father Flynn knocks on the door and offers for her to come with him to the lounge with him. She accepts the offer. Now in the lobby, Father Flynn and Darlene eat some pie, as the Father confesses about his failing memory. We then see Darlene drink some whiskey with him and Father Flynn attempts to drug her drink, getting a bottle smashed over his head for his attempt.

Now in Washington D.C we see their POV when Agent Sullivan is calling in and he is told to not leave till he can obtain all the surveillance equipment there. He brings up the kidnapping but is told to not interfere since that is not his main objective.

A flashback see's as a charismatic man talks to a woman and offers for her to swim with him. Not switching to the present time once again, we see the woman is the one currently tied up. Agent Sullivan barges in knocking Emily to the ground, but he allows her to get up then is killed when she first a shotgun blast into his torso.

Back in the bar, Miles wakes up Father Flynn wondering what happened to him. Flynn blames it on his old age. Miles then realizes one of his keys is missing and Flynn follows him into the back rooms seeing the two-way mirrors. Miles confesses he shoots the film before sending it to the management in Pennsylvania. But he says he has kept one of the films, which Flynn is super interested in.

We see in the next scene Flynn finding the film thanks to the help from Miles. We then see as Flynn goes back to Miles who is shot by the same blast which killed Agent Sullivan and Father Flynn runs away. Emily realizing what she did.

We switch to the past once again but this time in Darlene's point of view. We see as she witnesses Father Flynn try to drug her drink and grabs a bottle smashing it over his head. She runs outside in the rain seeing the detective and hiding, before entering his car which does not start. She goes in for a closer look seeing Agent Sullivan being shot by Emily.

Now in another flashback, we see Father Flynn is robbing an armored truck, wearing a white mask. With him on the robbery is his brother Felix, who he tells to meet him back at the El Royale Hotel as he drives off in the truck used to ram the armored truck.

We see soon this plan did not work out and he is sentenced to fifteen years for his crime. He begins to suffer memory problems and is told by the doctor he is suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia.

Back in the present time, we see Father Flynn enter Darlene's car saying his true intention for being here and saying he will split the money if she helps him find it.

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Now in the lobby, we see Miles tied up and he begs for his life. We change scenes to see Darlene singing as Father Flynn searches for the money in the corner of the room. Emily is watching her singing from the two-way mirror, not seeing Flynn look for the money.

Darlene and Flynn are attacked leaving the room by unknown assailants. Billy then shows up, who we saw previously in the beach flashback. Flynn, Darlene, and Emily are all tied up in the lobby now along with Miles. Miles tries to ask for forgiveness for his past crimes to Flynn, but can't since they tie his mouth shut.

Billy forces Emily to choose red or black on a roulette wheel and spins it now brandishing a revolver. Emily chooses red, Billy saying Miles gets black and it lands on black so Billy kills Emily. Miles continues to try to repent to Flynn, and Billy annoyingly tells Miles that he is no true priest. Billy is told by Flynn whose real name is Dock about why he is there but he does not believe him. Darlene is forced to sing for Billy and Dock manages to knock down Billy, jumping on him and a scuffle ensues between Dock and Billy. Darlene falls to the ground, seeing a pistol laying by Miles who refuses to use it revealing he has killed over 123 people, refusing to kill again.

In a flashback, we see Miles in the Vietnam War and now back in the present time he is convinced and fires killing Billy, along with the two followers in the lobby. He then goes outside killing two more followers and comes inside. Dropping his guard, he gets stabbed by Rosie, Rosie is then shot by Dock which kills her instantly. Miles repents his sins to Dock before he dies. Dock and Darlene gather the money before leaving the now burning hotel.

In the future in an unknown time, we see Dock come into view and watch a performance by Darlene who appears to have made it as a singer.

My Thoughts:

Bad Times at the El Royale was an action-packed thriller with many intriguing characters. I liked how the movie kept the characters true motives hidden for most of the first half and then fully went into it at the end. There are a few things that bothered me though, I did not like how they tried to make us sympathize with Emily and Rose when they were shown murdering a special agent. I get that she was protecting her sister but she is not better than anyone else here. The whole scene with Emily getting up after getting knocked out by the agent and killing Agent Sullivan was unrealistic. A seasoned special agent would make sure she could not get to her weapon before checking on Rosie.

Back to positives, Miles, and Dock stood out for me in the cast. Miles even though a heavily flawed and evil character wanted to change his life around only wanting to be forgiven before he died. Dock having memory problems is an actual issue many people face and made him even a little sympathetic. This movie was very entertaining, even the mostly talking scenes kept me engaged.

Overall Score 7.5 Roulette Wheels out of 10


© 2020 Jared Martin


Tracy-Tracy on December 13, 2020:

Loved the summary, now I can talk about the movie even though I’ve never seen it, lol!

LeAnnaMae on December 13, 2020:

Wow that was amazing

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