Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour wrote and directed ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’, setting the film in the quiet town in Iran aptly named Bad City. This could be American suburbia, in fact, it was shot in Bakersfield, California, but for the vampire stalking the streets at night. The film is atmospheric, but the dialog is in Farsi, the story is hard to follow, and scenes proceed slowly punctuated with sparse dialog. It is an unusual film, but it comes to an end without the viewer recognising a story in what we have seen.
Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Arash (played by Arash Varandi) leads a hard life in Bad City, Iran. He takes care of his father and tries unsuccessfully to keep his father Hossein (Marshall Manesh) off of heroin. Arash has one prize possession, his Ford Thunderbird Coup. But the drug pusher who sells Arash heroin has not been paid and on one visit grabs Arash’s car keys and takes his car. Arash takes out his unhappiness by going to a party dressed as Dracula. In this condition, he meets on the street The Girl (Sheila Vand), whol has a striking appearance herself, over a striped T-shirt, she wears a chador like a hood and a cape. It is an interesting transition of image turning a chador into a melodramatic cape, playing off of the fears of many Americans for things Islamic. While Arash pretends to be a vampire under his cape, The Girl under her own cape hides the fact that she really is a vampire. But as luck would have it, she is only pretending not to be a supernatural bloodsucker of the night, she is pretending not to have the supernatural, super-human powers of the undead. The viewer sees her mostly in the half-light of night and it creates an image that sticks in the viewer’s memory.
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ was written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. It is an expanded version of an 8-minute short of the same title that Amirpour made three years ago. She set her film in Bad City in Iran (is that really the name of a town?) but shot it in the United States in Bakersfield, California. The film is directed deadly seriously, but there are comic touches. At one point, the story advances to the music of a spaghetti western in Ennio Morricone’s distinctive style. Vampire fangs seem to be spring-loaded. The pace is slow so it feels like there is very little story there. The film lacks any sort of a conclusion and there is very little finality at the end of the film. But story is not really the point of this film, it is more an exercise in style in black and white. I admit I had problems recognising characters when they showed up dressed differently against a different background, but I felt compelled to go with the film.
The production style is straightforward and simple. Though filmed in the United States, we do see not how Iran is different from the United States, but how it is similar. Perhaps this is a different world that mixes American and Iranian background. Much of the film is about the drug culture. The film has one scene of breast nudity that we would probably not see in an Iranian film.
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ is a nice atmospheric exercise in horror filmmaking, light-years away from the sort of gory horror film popular in the US, but it will lose points for having so little story. It is not that any of the ideas are startlingly new, but it is very original to set a traditional vampire story in someplace as unexpected as Iran.
I would rate ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2014