by Breana Harris
Last summer, when trying to finish a script, I struggled to figure out why I was so unhappy with it. I loved my characters and premise, but something wasn’t right. That’s when I decided to re-watch Ana Lily Amirpour 2014 debut film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The visceral black-and-white film about an Iranian female vampire preying on evil men was unique, new, and fun. It gave me an epiphany.
My feature wasn’t weird enough. I forgot what truly excited me, distracted with structure guidelines and genre rules. Amirpour found success by breaking these rules. In a way, she proved they don’t exist. A Girl‘s script is one many Hollywood executives would toss by page five, but she made a film that excited her. She told the story that she wanted to tell. One part western, one part horror, all parts dark feminist fairy tale. However you want to categorize her work, it has excited fans and critics alike.
Her Sophomore Film, The Bad Batch.
Amirpour’s second film, The Bad Batch, expands on her distinct and exhilarating vibe and defies genre. The Bad Batch is set in a dystopian desert wasteland. The movie is dark while never bleak and marvelously strange. The film follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), a misfit blonde who is exiled in the desert after a post modern society deems her ‘undesirable’. She is quickly captured by a group of bodybuilder cannibals who saw off half her limbs. With one arm and one leg, Arlen makes a fantastical escape on a skateboard. She is found by The Hermit (a mute Jim Carrey) and taken to a settlement called Comfort, run by a silk-robed cult leader called the Dream (Keanu Reeves). Soon, one of the cannibal leaders, the charismatic Miami Man (Jason Momoa), traces his missing young daughter to Comfort, where his life and Arlen’s become intertwined.
Focus on the Visual.
Shot in and around Bombay Beach, California in 2015, The Bad Batch is both dazzling and grimy, from a beautiful acid trip sequence and a gaggle of pregnant women with machine guns. Scenes of horrific cannibal violence are accompanied by classic pop songs. As a writer, Amirpour creates a strikingly visual and tangible world, free of much dialogue. You can feel this movie. This is embodied in Carrey’s Hermit, who never speaks but expresses so much through his actions.
Our double-amputee heroine also conveys so much with just a flash of her eyes. At a Q&A last year, Amirpour describes Suki Waterhouse as having a “feral aliveness” – a phrase that also suits the film itself. In 2016, Amirpour premiered The Bad Batch at the Toronto International Film Festival and at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize. It landed at brand-new distribution company Neon. Neon is co-owned by the founder of Fantastic Fest and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Chain.
A MasterClass in Voice.
Amirpour’s career has just begun, but she seems to have carved herself a niche as a filmmaker, collaborating with those who understand her fierce individuality. There is an earnestness, a sense of underlying hope in both her films. The first section of The Bad Batch might be about Arlen’s will to survive despite impossible odds, but the rest is about her learning what sort of person she will choose to be in a wild and unforgiving world. We’re all trying to do that as individuals, in our own way. On June 23, The Bad Batch hits theaters, On Demand, and iTunes. Fans of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night won’t regret joining Ana Lily Amirpour on this next ride. She is quickly becoming one of our most exciting female directors.