Tiger Stripes

An ambitious, bumpy coming-of-ager, Tiger Stripes draws from Malaysian folklore to bring the horrors of puberty to the fore

Film Review by Stefania Sarrubba | 13 May 2024
  • Tiger Stripes
Film title: Tiger Stripes
Director: Amanda Nell Eu
Starring: Zafreen Zairizal, Deena Ezral, Piqa
Release date: 17 May
Certificate: 15

"The girl in front of you is no longer your daughter," a male character tells the parents of the rebellious 11-year-old Zaffan in this fierce, if uneven, feature directorial debut from Malaysia. Censored in its home nation, Tiger Stripes is a feral fable that winks at werewolf period horror Ginger Snaps, tapping into a fear of womanhood and the universal terror of losing grip over one’s body.

Director Amanda Nell Eu (who also co-wrote the film) charts a familiar territory, suggesting that few things are more horrific and powerful than being a teenage girl. Zafreen Zairizal channels this ambivalence in her charming performance as Zaffan, who's struggling to adjust to her excruciating growing pains in a controlling environment. Tiger Stripes opens with Zaffan dancing it out in a TikTok video. It's a joyous, defiant intro that offers a glimpse into her restrained girlhood, a cage that shrinks further after she starts menstruating and sees her body changing menacingly. 

While solidarity is scarce in Zaffan's microcosm – be it from her strict mum, her cruel classmates or the adults exerting their authority in misguided or exploitative ways – she finds an unexpected connection with a mysterious female figure. Unfortunately, the film fails to explore the intricacies of that bond, giving more time to Zaffan's cute friendship with classmate Mariam (Piqa). 

Tiger Stripes feels under-sketched, with one too many horror elements struggling to stick, but while it's raw in execution it's vivid in style and Zairizal's infectious, profoundly moving performance makes it worth the bumpy ride.

Released 17 May by Modern Films; certificate 15