Film Review: THE BAD BATCH (USA 2016)

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the bad batch.jpgA dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Stars: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Jayda Fink

Review by Gilbert Seah
Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour is best remembered for her breakout animated vampire feature A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT that featured strong visuals. She returns with another female protagonist sort-of vampire horror feature, this time set in a land of cannibals.

The BAD BATCH is a gruesome watch especially in its first 15 minutes. The film is tamed down after that, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it. In its first 15 minutes, Arlen (British model Suki Waterhouse) leaves Texas, U.S. and enters a no man’s land of toxic waste and odd communities. One is cannibal community where she is captured unconscious. Her lower arm and leg are sawed off and barbecued as a meal.

She escapes on a skateboard, lying sideways while using her one arm and leg to propel herself. Quite the horrific sight, which is unmatched after.
Amipour has progressed to this $6 million production that displays excellent production values. The art and set direction is excellent from the crows that peck and pick out the body parts of the corpses in the desert to the piles of toxic waste that fill the landscape. Amirpour has also cast known name actors in this film – Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey. But these three are highly unrecognizable, so it is best to carefully to watch out for them.

The film is set in a dystopian future America, where undesirables – the bad batch (they have numbers tattoo’ed on them) – are banished to a fenced-in desert outside the Texas territory, their US citizenship revoked. One of the condemned is twentysomething Arlen (Waterhouse).

After Arlen escapes from the cannibals losing one leg and an arm, she stays at Comfort, a hedonistic community run by a cult leader (Reeves). Over the next few months, as Arlen adjusts to the “bad batch” life, she discovers that being good or bad mostly depends on who’s standing next to you. She enters again the cannibal community to exact revenge, killing off a mother while adopting the motherless daughter (Jayda Pink). The husband, a hunky cannibal with the words ‘Miami Man’ tattoo’ed across his chest comes hunting for them. Arlen falls in love with him. The film takes a different turn.

The main trouble with the film are the loose ends and credibility of the script. What is Arlen’s background and what was her sentence? Her falling in love with Miami Man stretches credibility. Why would the little girl who witnesses Arlen’s shooting of her mother go on to live amicably with her? And most important of all, why does Arlen have a change of heart?

The film boats a diverse soundtrack that includes oldies like Culture Club’s Karma-Chameleon, Ace of Base’s All that She Wants and a killer soundtrack by electronic duo Darkside.

The film won the Special Jury Prize at Venice 2016 and it is easy to see why. Despite its flaws it shows great originality, look and attention to set and art details.


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