If the word ‘lurid’ didn’t already appear on page 489 of my Oxford English Dictionary it might have been coined to describe “The Bad Batch,” a new slice of misery from director Ana Lily Amirpour. This dystopian cannibal freak out isn’t really very good but if Amirpour’s intention was to make an unpleasant, slackly paced look at life after a calamity, she has succeeded spectacularly.
Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is part of the Bad Batch, a large group of murderers, drug dealers and other deplorables no longer wanted in the United States. In Amirpour’s post apocalyptic world the unwanted are numbered, tattooed, escorted to a wasteland in Texas and dropped off outside of an electric fence to fend for themselves. Arlen’s new, dusty world is a wasteland, a dangerous place where Keanu Reeves is a Jim Jones figure called The Dream and if you’re not careful you might end up as a main course for the cannibals who now eat humans to survive.
Soon she is kidnapped, carved up, her arm and leg becoming an entrée for vicious flesh eaters who keep her in chains until she escapes with the help of a gnarly old hermit played by Jim Carrey. She lands at Comfort, the ironically named compound run by cult leader The Dream. On the outskirts of Comfort Arlen exacts revenge on one of the cannibals who turned her into a midday snack. Grabbing the woman’s child she returns to the compound. When the little girl disappears her father, the mountainous and muscly Miami Man (Jason Momoa), comes looking for her. Arlene, high on acid, meets him and the two form an unlikely bond as they search for his daughter.
Amirpour is a gifted director—her “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is like no other vampire movie—but her ideas here echo a little too loudly with reverberations from “Mad Max” and other dystopian movies. “The Bad Batch” starts strong with startling images but every time it works up a head of steam it veers off track. Its languid pace and stretched-out story makes the two-hour running time feel much longer.