Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
The Iranian vampire movie “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” was the brilliant debut that Ana Lily Amirpour needed to launch her career. The accolades given by the critic have pushed the English-born, LA-based filmmaker into a challenging position, infusing some pressure and piquing curiosity about what her next move should/would be. Would she remain faithful to the beautiful black-and-white cinematography? Would she stick to noirish themes?
Her sophomore feature “The Bad Batch” is now out, and answers these questions. It’s a no to the first one since the still attractive cinematography makes use of an arid color palette. And it’s a yes to the second question because the film, a dystopian cannibal love story, is enveloped in gloominess, human degradation, and distress.
The plot concerns a young woman, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who is marked as a bad batch, which means an outcast doomed to live forever in a forlorn enclosed area located outside Texas. She’s given a gallon of water and abandoned at her own mercy, just to be captured by cannibal freaks who usually start sawing arms and legs first to satisfy their hunger.
The imagery comes accompanied by great music, whose styles range from hip-hop to synth pop to ambient electronica, and carries a wicked toxicity and a strong sense of despair that truly disturbs. Arlen covered by her own feces after having one arm and a leg cut off, or a crow pecking the eyes of a recently dead person, are not particularly agreeable images to look at. However, there are a few great digitally manipulated shots that captivate and even soothe the generalized anarchy.
Despite the violence of the scenes and this somewhat urgency in calling systematically our attention to darkness, the story proceeds with logic and some emotional bait.
Arlen has the luck to be rescued by members of an organization called The Comfort, headed by the enigmatic cult leader and drug baron The Dream (Keanu Reeves), and also finds an external ally, Miami Man (Jason Momoa), a Cuban muscleman who’s looking for his missing little daughter.
With all types of dangers surrounding them, they keep struggling to survive in a lawless land where you have to watch for yourself.
The eventful “The Bad Batch” is bitterly caustic in its conclusion. The finale makes us think over and realize how deep into darkness Amirpour’s mind can go. Still, a relentless search for life, regardless its form, is presented in this Jodorowsky-meets-Mad Max psychedelia.