10-year-old Zainab (Saleha Aref) lives in a village in Pakistan with her mother, Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz), and father, Daulat Khan (Asif Khan). Their family has been feuding with another local family, so to put an end to that feud Daulat Kan agrees to marry Zainab to the tribal leader, Tor Gul (Abdullah Jaan), a middle-aged man. On the day of the wedding, ALlah Rakhi takes Zainab and goes on the run with her to Lahore in hopes of reuniting with her own mother, Rukhsana (Samina Ahmad). They hop onto the back of the truck belonging to Sohail (Mohib Mirza) who hesitently agrees to drive down the highway to Lahore while Tor Gul and Daulat Khan chase after them.
The screenplay by first-time writer/director Afia Nathaniel generates tension within the first hour or so, but then it dissipates as the plot begins to wear itself a little too thin without much in terms of surprises or cleverness. From the get-go, though, at least you'll know what this film is about because Nathaniel wastes very little time when it comes to exposition. There need to be more stories like this where female roles play an integral part of the film, so to that extent, Dukhtar does feel refreshing. However, as the plot progresses, it becomes repetitive, monotonous, pedestrian and, therefore, less suspenseful and captivating. It's as though it were in a hurry to reach its destination without letting its characters breathe along the way so that you can get to know them better. Instead, Tor Gul comes across as a cartoonish villain during the cat-and-mouse chase. More nuance and humanism would have helped to diminish the cartoonishness.
What does help to elevate Dukhtar, though, are its heartfelt performances by Samiya Mumtaz and Saleha Aref. Their emotionally compelling performances somewhat compensate for the screenplay's lack of depth and other shortcomings. Beyond that, there's also the breathtaking cinematography of Pakistan which as rarely been captured so beautifully. Ultimately, the film's landscape is a much better developed character and more beguiling as well as memorable than any of its human characters.
The Final Girls
Max (Taissa Farmiga) has yet to overcome the death of her mom, Amanda (Malin Akerman), who died in a car crash three years earlier. She reluctantly agrees to attend a tribute screening of a slasher horror film, "Camp Bloodbath," in which her mom had starred in. A fire at the theater somehow leads to the creation of a portal in the movie screen that sends her and her friend Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) along with her boyfriend, Chris (Alexander Ludwig), Chris' ex, Vicki (Nina Dobrev) and Gertie (Alia Shawkat), directly inside "Camp Bloodbath."
A huge part of what makes The Final Girls so refreshing and entertainining is that it never takes itself too seriously, but it knows when to slow down a bit to add a surprising touch of humanism. Beyond that, though, it has a very inventive concept that's executed quite effectively, and it never wears itself too thin. The screenplay by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller pokes fun at the horror genre in a way that's clever, witty and tongue-in-cheek. Hopefully, you're a fan of 80's slasher films like Friday the 13th because otherwise the tongue-in-cheek humor and references would go right over your head.
Think of The Final Girls as a twisted version of Pleasantville with the tone of horror satires like Scream---it's just as refreshing and surprising. None of the surprises will be spoiled here which explains why I'm not disclosing what happens after Max and her friends enter the portal. Of course, suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite to truly enjoy the film, but at least you don't have to check your brain at the door. Just sit back with a group of friends, relax, perhaps with a few beers as well, and have a great time watching the wickedly funny, crowd-pleasing satire, The Final Girls. It's destined to become a cult classic.