Tiger Stripes Review

Tiger Stripes
Tiger Stripes
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For example, female puberty particularly menstruation has long been depicted in many coming-of-age horror films such as Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes which is an exciting debut. For instance, the opening scene of Carrie reveals a nightmarish first-period-in-the-school-shower scenario or the lead character of 2016’s The Love Witch who makes powerful potions out of menstrual blood and leaves used sanitary pads on her lover’s grave as tokens of permanent affection. But it is not a horror film that most closely resembles Tiger Stripes; it is a recent animation comedy: Just like her counterpart in Domee Shi’s Turning Red, 12-year-old Zaffan (Zafreen Zairizal) finds that her first period comes with not just the usual hormone-fuelled fears but also stranger and more bizarre changes destined to throw the adolescent into a spiral of interpersonal and societal anxieties.

This luckily makes the light-hearted girl stand out among others making life enjoyable—especially when she takes on The Man. We meet her at the beginning when she valiantly takes off her hijab inside a bathroom at an all-girls Muslim school in Malaysia – this act is actually one half of another act which includes flaunting off shiny new acquisition amongst friends: a push-up bra designed for young girls. There is no longer any awe or curiosity among this small group of girls as soon as they see their teacher coming towards them ready to restore order again and make an example from this rebellious Zaffan.

Apart from being the first in class to hit puberty, Zaffan is also one of her peers who shows up in school wearing a bra. Getting negative attention because of it makes her wish to blend in rather than stand out – suddenly and overwhelmingly the feisty nature that used to make her a cool leader begins reinforcing her status as an outcast; little information about the conservative values she lives by is available for PMS girls entering womanhood and this is why the school becomes fertile ground for rumors and myths. Zaffan must be careful, warns one of her fellow classmates, because if she does not clean up the blood that pools between her legs, it will attract all sorts of devils – and no one wants to be around someone with such supernatural summoning powers like hers?

Eu’s merging of well-known horror tropes with seldom-explored Malaysian mythology makes for a new take on the coming-of-age film, which is worth watching because of the never-ending charm of Zairizal. However, this very balancing act also prevents Tiger Stripes from slipping into the mythical territory that it so playfully hints at in its first half. Every time Zaffan starts to notice her body changing in ways that are beyond biological, Eu diverts our attention by examining how these changes affect her surroundings. Such an unrelenting back-and-forth keeps Tiger Stripes from ever having a climax; therefore, this bated and unanswered expectation leads to an irritating feeling.

If Tiger Stripes is bogged down by an incessant lack of focus, it is due to Eu’s strong visual storytelling skills. Insides pour out of dead carcasses next to pink bubble-gum stickers as they spend afternoons by the riverside while water cools down the body in hot days only to wash off blood stains left behind by hunters. Sinister claws tear off layers of skin on hands that have deftly been moving along with catchy beats from TikTok and eyes that have gobbled hungrily through mobile phone screens turn freakishly red when darkness falls. It is therefore unfortunate that such talent for world-building has been squandered so painfully on a film that never fully takes advantage of its successful encapsulation of teenagehood today. At times, Tiger Stripes can be entertaining but it ultimately leaves you hanging.


However, Amanda Nell Eu’s debut feature film ‘Tiger Stripes’ does not epitomize Malaysian adolescents’ thrills with terrifying imaginations over bodily horrors in spite of the existing potential in female puberty for a number of horror films dealing with growth into adulthood among young women. Therefore, there are moments when one may find something interesting but most parts appear unfocused and visually rich.

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