In her promising first feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour forewent the feminist messaging her film’s title might have suggested and instead surprised with a stylish meet-cute premise involving a vampire. Her follow-up, The Bad Batch, substitutes vampires for cannibals and the debut’s ghost town setting for a barren wasteland. The vision is far grander than her reach, though, and the film is ultimately undone by an inability to moor its ideas into anything resembling cohesion. There is a sense of room to play here, and the possibilities are considerable—the cultish oasis community seems ready-made for premium cable serialization—but Amirpour fails to deliver a navigable world or characters worth exploring. Instead, we are given leads defined almost exclusively by superficial identifiers: Suki Waterhouse’s character almost immediately loses two of her limbs, just to emphasize her grittiness, while Jason Momoa chokes on a Cubano accent utilized only for cursory commentary on the continued criminalization of illegal immigration in this future world. The film never manages to develop itself beyond its surface appeal, and it ultimately works as little more than an amalgam of fanboy curiosa.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.