Director – Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast – Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film I wanted to watch back in mid-2014, but there were no theater showings nearby and I had to wait until it hit VOD 9 months later. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night provided multiple reasons for me to desire to see it. For one, it comes directed by a woman, which is still a rarity in the genre despite more and more females in the director’s chair. Also, it is filmed in black and white and the actors speak in the Iranian language. There are several other reasons, like this being a “western vampire tale”, but the biggest reason I wanted to see this is because those that had seen it spoke nothing but praise. After experiencing it for myself, I now see why.
Lurking the streets of Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a lonesome vampire who stalks the townspeople finds love.
The story begins by introducing us to Arash, a young man who works hard to support himself and care for his junkie father. His father’s lifestyle takes a negative effect on Arash, who suffers at the hands of a drug dealer collecting on his father’s debt. Bad City reeks of everything that is wrong with society, and he is not alone in feeling that way. A vampire has been ridding the city of the degenerates that plague it, and she does so by sinking her teeth into their necks.
The first kill hits at the 24 minute mark, and I was honestly very impressed with how scary it was. Ana Lily Amirpour’s execution of this scene is incredible. From the full-frontal cinematography to the performance from the talented Sheila Vand, the tension was high and the effect is a lasting one. When the vampire, credited as The Girl, and Arash finally meet, the chemistry between the two is awe-inspiring. Arash moves the film and The Girl graces it with sincere joy and the occasional feasting. Amirpour’s story is not devoutly horror, as it blends love and other elements, but it is absolutely a horror film. Don’t be fooled. There are several awesome kill sequences, with each of them executed in a fashion that left me shocked in ways I did not expect from such an “artsy” film. Actress Sheila Vand’s performance played a big role in these scares. After seeing her in Ben Affleck’s Argo, it was amazing to see her display such a cruel and terrifying death stare before each kill.
Armirpour ensures that this will be a visually engaging piece, shot in black and white while perfectly blending contrast and blacks to give us a vintage look. The musical score plays into this atmosphere, and while at times it bled that Robert Rodriguez Western feel, I honestly did not see this as the Western film it has been marketed as. The sets used were simple but effective, and no, this Iranian-language flick was not filmed in Iran, but in Taft, California.
This story is an engaging one, but don’t expect it to be consumed with vampire action. Like I mentioned earlier, we do see a few good kills, but this is equal parts romance as it is horror, and the romance will consume the second act as well as most of the third. The dialogue is minimal, yet that did not negatively affect the interaction between Arash and The Girl. At times I felt like Amirpour’s goal was to sell the film with atmosphere and emotion, and not so much with narrative. One element to consider, aside from love and horror, is the feeling of empowerment displayed from The Girl. Each of her kills serves a purpose. Whether she kills a drug dealer or a rapist, she is ridding Bad City of the scum that plagues it.
Overall, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a one-of-a-kind experience that I suggest to those who would appreciate such a film. The direction is incredible, the horror is solid, and this is a slap in the face of those who say horror is dead / all genre films are the same.