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Tiger Stripes

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4 Star popcorn reviewss


If someone were to tell you that world is a level playing field for men and women, then ask them to reconsider their statement! This is because men don’t have to go through the amount of pain that women undergo for more than half their lives due to menstruation! With the Oscar frenzy reaching its pinnacle yesterday, I did have a few ‘Oscar’ leftovers to finish. These films may not have made it to the final list of nominations(besides winning) but they did represent their country rather well at the time of submission. With that, I finished watching the new Malay film Tiger Stripes which was Malaysia’s Official Submission to the Academy Awards this year. I must admit that this film was lying in my watchlist for quite some time, which also meant that I knew a bit about the film and what it had to offer. Coupling body horror with a folklore with the underlying theme of menstruation was an interesting proposition on paper, does the same concept translate well on celluloid. Moreover, does Tiger Stripes manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Tiger Stripes follows the story of a 11 year old girl who starts experiencing major transformations to her body while being on the cusp of puberty. This while her body transformations slowly take the form of a Tiger. The story here unfolds like an allegory representing a girl experiencing menstruation for the first time while also tackling relevant issues related to the discrimination that girls are exposed to, often while menstruating. The screenplay standing at a shade above 90 minutes is taut and wild in many ways with the writers going full throttle with the underlying message, something that unleashes the inner ‘beast’ in the character of the protagonist. This is almost like a physical representation of all the mood swings and discrimination that girls are exposed to while being ostracized from the community often while menstruating. The idea of being ostracized has continued for over ages wherein there is a restriction on certain activities carried out by them which is rather unfortunate. And the screenplay here highlights exactly that in a drama packaged as a folklore. This section will contain spoilers. 

The drama opens with the introduction of the 11 year old protagonist who lives a carefree life along with her friends. So you witness them sharing in banter in washrooms while being playful with a bralet, or not shying away splashing and getting soaked in water while continuing to make TikTok videos, much to the dismay of the protagonist’s mother who doesn’t wish her daughter to expose herself to certain kinds of clothes. Here the setting plays an important part given that the drama is staged in a small rural community of Malaysia with undercurrents of religion. This until the protagonist gets her first period before her friends, an event that transforms her life forever. 

The proceedings are engaging and engrossing but also wild and zany in many ways with what it wishes to convey. So once the protagonist gets her periods, she begins to get ostracized with respect to certain activities in her school like not allowed to attend the religious prayers. This, while even her friends take a disliking to her, often talking on how she ‘smells’ and how disgusting it is for everyone witnessing her ‘pee’ in class. In between, there is a hint of a folklore introduced of a demon captivating girls who aren’t ‘clean’, something that acts as a basis for the drama to follow. 

The protagonist is witness to physical transformations in her body, most of which are out of her control even as she starts developing stripes and claws on her body which she hides it from the world through her attire. This is an allegory in itself of girls who are suppressed by the society or even body shamed about their changing appearance while being on the cusp of puberty. The ‘beast’ within comes to the fore as a matter of a lot of suppression which is represented here in the form of a ‘tiger’. The lens with which this film needs to be watched is of a human drama, rather than treating it as a body horror which is only a byproduct of the events transpiring around the protagonist. 

The events leading to the final act comprises of a Shaman trying to drive away the ‘demon’ who apparently may have possessed the protagonist. This itself is an allegory of the society(besides being a cultural reference of idiosyncrasy) wishing young girls to behave a certain way, and any deviation from this would result in suppression. And it is only when the protagonist comes to terms with her wild side while accepting her reality, is when she truly ‘cuts through’ the norms of the society while leading a free life, even as her other friends hit puberty for the first time. The last shot of the protagonist dancing is representative of being wild and carefree, just as she was at the start of the film before experiencing menstruation for the first time. The screenplay here is brilliantly penned and makes for a fascinating watch.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are conversational and the underlying message is conveyed effectively through the lines. The BGM is sparingly used, allowing the drama to be raw and wild, much like the best use case for the protagonist. The cinematography is excellent and exposes the shortcomings of the society vividly through some frames. The VFX is slightly on the weaker side and you can make out that the film did have budget constraints. The editing is crisp and sharp throughout the narrative. The film here needed a female gaze given its narrative style(and a female who would understand the problems of menstruation better than anyone else), and I am so glad to have discovered the prowess of Director Amanda Nell Eu here. She has a firm grip of the narrative while tactfully creating an uncertain world around the protagonist, before unleashing the beast within her. She tactfully addresses all relevant issues along the way that also acts as a mirror for the society. The direction was incredibly good here.


The performances are excellent here. Shaheizy Sam as the exorcist does briefly dabble with dark comedy and effectively so. Deena Ezral as Farah and Piqa as Mariam are first rate and their distinct character traits are backed by their stupendous performances. Zafreen Zairizal as Zaffan is the life of the film. This was a complex role as it required a sense of physicality to her character apart from showcasing her vulnerability. And Zafreen does a tremendous job on both accounts, meticulously touching upon her character traits while being brutally unabashed towards the end.


Malaysia’s Official Submission to the Academy Awards this year(not in the final 15), Tiger Stripes is terrifying and poignant horror folklore on puberty and menstruation that makes for a brilliant watch. The drama is highly recommended from my end.

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