Tiger Stripes: Review

Tiger Stripes: Review

Tiger Stripes: Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Helmed by Malaysian feature-length debutante Amanda Nell Eu, Tiger Stripes is a coming-of-age body horror of agonisingly adolescent proportions. 11-year-old Zaffran (played by the impressively mature Zafreen Zairzai) attends a conservative girls’ school in rural Selangor and finds herself the subject of ostracism from her peers and elders. Ridiculed as a “slut” for daring to show more skin than that of her face and accused of bringing shame upon her family for not wearing her veil, Zaffran’s girlhood is fraught with misogyny.

As is the case with all adolescents, Zaffran notices uncomfortable, sometimes shocking, changes in her body. Some of the most cutting comments about these changes come from her own friends. Upon starting her period, Zaffran’s “friend” Farah (Deena Ezral) labels her as “gross” and the well-meaning Mariam (Piqa) reads from her phone urban legends about girls with dirty period pads going insane and others accidentally summoning blood-licking demons.

Centring youths in an age of advanced technology, the film cleverly integrates this by occasionally interspersing mobile phone footage from the girls’ phones. And as Zaffran’s body changes exacerbate and become more severe, the mobile footage only becomes more unsettling. Coarse hairs begin to grow, an agonising psoriatic skin condition worsens, and with particular credit due to the special effects team, one unbearably squeamish scene has us witness a fingernail peel right off. The girl’s behaviour becomes more animalistic and as the locals begin to pick up on it, so enters a truly primal horror from within.

With echoes of Stephen King’s classic Carrie, the film’s discourse surrounding period poverty and religious fervour is as uncomfortable as it is necessary, particularly for the audience who most needs it: young girls. Nell Eu translates the most common pre-teen anxieties into perhaps the greatest horror of them all: growing up. In the face of restrictive religious and conservative beliefs, self-alienation and miseducation naturally follow suit and as such, films such as Tiger Stripes become all the more important.

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