In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.
Billed as the first Iranian vampire western, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ is a noirish treat that wears its cinematic influences proudly on its sleeve. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, the film takes us to the fictional location of ‘Bad City’, a barren industrial town populated by drug dealers, users and a solitary female vampire. The town has the feeling of a place with its best days behind it, with the black and white palette giving the film a look not too dissimilar to ‘Sin City’, albeit a ‘Sin City’ where little happens. The film has a playful relationship with genre tropes, successfully merging the cinematography and score of a western with the horror of vampire films, with a fair dose of black humour thrown in for good measure.
The joy in Amirpour’s film is in the construction of this fictional world, and how its landscape allows the characters to behave and interact in interesting ways, from the vampire herself to Arash (Arash Marandi), a young, nervous adolescent. Arash is our link into the world of ‘Bad City’, introduced in the beginning as he tries to defend his junkie father (Marshall Manesh) from a drug dealer (Dominic Rains). Arash is lonely, struggles with his father’s behaviour, and he struggles to connect with the local girls (one of many great scenes shows Arash’s nervousness to full effect at a club). His path crosses with the solitary, titular vampire (Sheila Vand), on the way home from this club, and they find a kindred spirit in one another. This isn’t a genre subversion of the romantic vampire tale, which we’ve seen many iterations of recently from ‘Twilight’ to ‘Warm Bodies’, but a depiction of two lonely souls coming together. The fact that one happens to be a vampire feels more incidental than anything. As they bond to the appropriately chosen ‘Death’ by White Lies, Vand and Marandi’s wordless display connects superbly.
More than anything, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ is a collection of great scenes as well as a satisfactory whole. The dark humour in the scene when the vampire visits the pimped up home of Dominic Rains character is a classic example of humour and horror escalating as one. The audience knows the natural endpoint of this scene, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable waiting for the breaking point as Rains obnoxious drug dealer badly miscalculates the situation. ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ is a moody, atmospheric piece of cinema, gorgeously made with Amirpour’s collection of influences coming together to deliver a cult classic in the making. Recommended.
Directed By: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Mozhan Marno and Rome Shadanloo