Bringing “Bad” back to the big screen for her highly anticipated sophomore film is Ana Lily Amirpour, the visionary who made black and white Vampire Spaghetti Westerns a thing.
Amirpour trades the streets of Bad City for the barren desert of Texas in “The Bad Batch,” a meditative and highly audacious cannibal film that makes Burning Man look like your grandmother’s tea party. Check back tomorrow for our exclusive interview with Amirpour and actress Suki Waterhouse.
Our heroine is Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), a young woman who has been dumped in the desert after spending an undisclosed amount of time in a detention facility. Disoriented and penniless, her stamina is no match for unrelenting sun as she decides to let her guard down for a quick nap in a conveniently abandoned car. It’s not long until a group of ragtag cannibal misfits find Arlen and take her to their base camp. Her desperation to escape literally costs Arlen an arm and a leg as she quickly learns that it’s every man, or in this case, woman, for herself in the Bad Batch.
Elements of what made Amirpour’s first film, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” so successful are replicated here– strong female protagonist, gritty skate culture and trendy soundtrack, including songs from Die Antwoord and Culture Club, and all-around cool vibes. Perhaps too cool at times, but how can it not be coming from distributors like Vice, NEON, and Annapurna?
Ana Lily Amirpour’s moody, high-style horror flick is an unconventional watch, but for as tough and tireless as the premise is, the cinematic style of the film itself is quite idyllic.
Arlen encounters many characters as she wanders through the barren landscape, including the big and burly Miami Man (Jason Momoa), his quiet yet independent daughter, Honey (Jayda Fink) and The Dream (Keanu Reeves), the idolized patriarch of the desert camp called Comfort. The subsidiary cast of kooks like Hermit (Jim Carrey) and The Screamer (Giovanni Ribisi) are unexpected but welcomed additions that further round out Arlen’s reality. Like a bad ass Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz,” Arlen just wants to go home and uses these characters she meets along the way to help her get there.
The audience isn’t given the luxury of knowing Arlen’s backstory, or how she wound up in the Bad Batch in the first place, but character development clearly wasn’t the focus here. We are dropped into a dystopian desert without knowing how we got there or where we’re going, but we blindly buckle up for the ride. By default, we root for Arlen’s success because the odds are against her, plus she is fighting to survive with a missing left arm and leg, I’d venture to guess, however, that a backstory would have made the audience further emotionally invested.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s moody, high-style horror flick is an unconventional watch, but for as tough and tireless as the premise is, the cinematic style of the film itself is quite idyllic. Minimal dialogue and long, sweeping shots of the vast wasteland makes for a meditative watch despite the blood, guts, and gore. Lingering shots of barren desert-living mixed with the effortlessly cool and all-around badass Suki Waterhouse makes “The Bad Batch” an artistic vision, or dare I say… dream?
“The Bad Batch” is rated R for violence, language, some drug content, and brief nudity. 118 minutes. Opening this Friday at ArcLight Hollywood and On Demand, Amazon and iTunes.