Zebra Girl brings horror in the form of childhood trauma: A Night of Horror International Film Festival review

Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

One of the closing night films at A Night of Horror International Film Festival, Zebra Girl (directed by Stephanie Zari) brings a melancholic yet disturbing story to the table. The film is based on a one-woman play titled Catherine and Anita. In it, Catherine (Sarah Roy) marries an academic by the name of Dan (Tom Cullen) and they live in a beautiful home in remote countryside. Catherine, convinced her husband is hiding something, commits a brutal act. This kicks of the story of her upbringing and re-connection with an old friend by the name of Anita (Jade Anouka).

Through use of flashbacks, the story unfolds that exposes how Catherine got to this point in her life. Her younger years (played by Isabelle Connolly) are explored including one significant moment that shaped her short-lived marriage. The flashbacks are engaging and well-structured, becoming a little less horror and a bit more melodrama. Here in these scenes, Anita is always there for Catherine, especially after the most difficult moments in her life.

External references to songs, books and stories are peppered throughout Zebra Girl. Including Catherine and Anita’s own story of the Zebra girl, who reflects who they are/who they become. Connecting the storyline to external texts may appear a little obvious, especially when Catherine (Connolly) and her father (Henry Douthwaite) read the novel, Flowers in the Attic, together. There is also a spider motif that is paired with the singing of nursery rhyme, Itsy Bitsy Spider, that will send goosebumps up an arachnophobes back.

All these elements culminate in a reflection on larger issues surrounding mental health and the journey to stability. Within this overarching theme Zebra Girl covers family dynamics, abuse, and trauma, but perhaps misses the mark to really make an impact on audiences. Catherine is a character that is difficult to connect with as her journey and decision-making is flawed. It is difficult to say whether this is a symptom of her upbringing or if she was in control the whole time.

At times Zebra Girl is a little comical (intentionally of course), particularly in Catherine’s choice of pink clothing, her preppy vibe, and the use of the infamous pink bow saw. The film starts off a little silly, ultimately ending up a little under-developed. There’s so much in Zebra Girl that gets skirted over, leaving with a sense of being unfinished.


Zebra Girl screens at 7pm on 23 October 2022 as part of A Night of Horror International Film Festival.

Complimentary cocktail courtesy of Ester Spirits upon arrival + Festival Awards Ceremony.

Screens with The Nicky Nack (Dir: Tom Oxenham/UK/6 min).