Dating apps are usually a nightmare for women, but in David Chirchirillo’s 2017 relationship thriller Bad Match, unlikeable protagonist Harris swipes right when he should have swiped left. An intended one-night stand with a girl named Riley takes a sharp turn when Riley is looking for something more. Bad Match takes a good, hard look at the downsides of digital dating and hook-up culture, offering a fresh twist reflective of the new mainstream social understanding about toxic masculinity. Obviously, the Squad decided we had some opinions about it!
Warning: As with every Squad Talk, we do get into spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, take a break, watch it, and then come back for the hot takes.
Valeska: I’d not heard of Bad Match prior to Netflix recommending it to me last week. I’m not sure what I expected going in. Probably something akin to last year’s disappointing You Get Me — a predictable dating horror flick that underscores the “bitches be crazy” trope.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Bad Match is a relationship thriller that turns the Fatal Attraction formula on its head. We’ve definitely been seeing an uptick in horror films that approach the topic of toxic masculinity in a self-aware way, which I really appreciate. I thought that Bad Match did a great job of exploring the cruel and painful intersection between male entitlement, the alienation of the digital age, and the superficiality of Tinder culture. I have to admit, I spent much of the film cheering for the comeuppance suffered by the protagonist, even before the twist unfolded.
Joe: I’ll agree. I liked how the first two thirds of the film toed the line between suggesting that Riley is an insane girl and Harris is an insufferable dude-bro who deserves to be taught a lesson. One could make the argument that there’s a problematic lack of an audience surrogate because both parties commit some terrible acts, but David Chirchirillo’s script wisely complicates their dynamic by suggesting that neither party is in the right. Trying to figure out if the film itself is aware of how terrible Harris is was quite entertaining (mostly because I wanted to punch him in the face for pretty much everything he did, up to and including a “Fart Loading” t-shirt).
Valeska: Yes, he was supremely punchable. I was thrilled when the film ultimately came down on the side of “Harris is an entitled ass”. The last thing I wanted was another film about how unstable and dangerous scorned women are, especially when men are so much more likely to become violent after a rejection.
Suri: Oh God, the Fart Loading shirt. And the events of the WHOLE FILM could have been avoided if Harris simply was upfront with the women he met through online dating about just wanting hookups. His fear of confrontation until goaded to the periphery of sanity added nuance to his character and made what happened with Riley plausible. But from a writing craft standpoint, the third act twist is weak. I actually figured out that Harris’s gamer buddy hacked his Twitter and had him arrested for possessing child pornography early on. It’s awfully convenient that Harris butted heads with him at the same time he was entangled with Riley — the two conflicts aren’t connected in any way or form. Coincidences of that magnitude aren’t unheard of, but it’s a lazy plot device and a big no-no in screenwriting. Also, how Riley met up with him and tampered with his alarm the night before his career-defining job presentation? Clearly, the deus ex machina stars aligned to upend his life.
CC: Definitely had no idea about this film and I’m actually pretty glad I went in with a clean slate. On the surface it seems very stereotypical of the one night stand gone bad – but there’s a little bit more to unpack here. Like Suri, I deduced it was Harris’ gamer buddy as soon as they butted heads at the beginning of the film – but was interested to see how Riley’s character was going to play out. It was a little annoying to see Riley’s character lead so hard into the stereotypical head over heels girl scorned, but that’s a fault with the script and not the acting of Lili Simmons. And in Jack Cutmore-Scott’s defense, he really embodied the arrogance of a semi attractive white male who’s had one shot too many and deserves to have karma pay him a visit.
Joe: I’ve been really impressed with the glossy production values on several indie horror/thrillers that I have seen recently and Bad Match is reflective of that trend. There are some really stylish shots in the film (I couldn’t help but imagine the Twitter handle One Perfect Shot screen grabbing a still of that luscious scene near the climax when Riley is tied up against a stark red background). Another stand-out is the slow 360 pan as Harris waits “undercover” at the bar for Riley to arrive – moving from an empty bar to a full bar, including a slight change in music is a simple, but very efficient way to communicate the passage of time as he waits to enact his dastardly plan.
I really thought both Jack Cutmore-Scott and Lili Simmons did a great job in the lead roles, too. In fact, my biggest criticism in the tech side is the atrocious acting from Noureen DeWulf as Terri, Harris’ boss. Ever time she showed up on-screen it suddenly felt like we were watching a really terrible Lifetime movie.
Suri: While I do have issues with the script, I agree entirely. This was a very, very tightly directed film. Jack and Lili had great chemistry. The scenes were well blocked, lit, and shot — especially the action sequences. The director also rolled with the low key, low budget vibe. Nothing about the film was the over the top; the music and sound design were subtle but effective. But yes, Noureen DeWulf was terrible, but it is nice seeing a woman of colour in an authoritarian role.
CC: Totally agree with both Joe and Suri – visually, I was super into this. The two scenes Joe mentions were beyond stunning. And the low key, low budget vibe really worked for the campy plot. I really liked how the underplayed moments at the bar or at Harris’ home really help to amp up the more climatic scenes.
Valeska: My biggest quibble with this movie is actually the ending — I feel like an attempted murder and subsequent arrest would have been just as effective. I’d like to believe that Riley made a full recovery, somehow, and went on to become a victim’s advocate. But the ending is pretty reflective of a culture where women are often killed by irrational, emotional men.
Joe: And men who know them. The ease with which Harris is able to track, manipulate and abduct Riley is genuinely frightening for anyone with a substantial online social media presence. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of how easy it can be to ingratiate yourself into someone’s life with only a few key details about their life (the date of a test, a favourite drink, etc).
My complaint with the ending is that the criminal action that Harris charges Riley with instigating – the child pornography – isn’t at all believably in her skill set. Not once are we ever given the impression that she’s capable of enacting that kind of revenge. Compare this to the fake suicide, which seems much more appropriately for a jilted ex. Perhaps if Riley were a computer science major or some kind of proficient tech wizard this would have landed better. As it stands Harris simply comes off as insane for assuming that she’s the culprit.
Valeska: I kind of liked that, though. It underscored his lack of logic and objectivity, which is supposed to be the domain of men (in contradistinction to the allegedly overemotional nature of women).
Suri: I didn’t have an issue with Harris killing Riley. Sure, it’s tired seeing refrigerated women in films, but her death upped the stakes and showed how far gone he was. Obviously, he had issues from the get-go: manipulative, pathologically dishonest, self-interested, terrified of intimacy. Books and literature typically frame men who exhibit those traits as sexy and picaresque. With Harris though, they indicated that he was unbalanced and hinted at what was to come. To reference what Valeska wrote earlier, we’re conditioned to perceive Byronic anti-heroes as alluring and flawed women as demons, and Bad Match subverts those archetypes. Finally a film in which dicks aren’t rewarded and are held accountable for their actions.
CC: I’m on board with everyone here – definitely with Valeska that I wanted Riley to survive and maybe even kill Harris in the process. But like it was said, I guess Riley’s death really drove home the emotional immaturity and the completely unhinged and irrational mindset of Harris. Suri’s also right – I did appreciate that Harris’ character was never put on a pedestal for his behavior. Even at work, outside of his lack of emotional development, his pitch is chosen over his friend and coworker, and he’s arrogant and flippant rather than humble; seeing a horrible person get theirs is pretty satisfying.
What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments!