Film Reviews

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night | Review

April 5, 2015
Sheila Vand in "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"

Iranian-American film director Ana Lily Amirpour’s unusual vision of the Vampire genre, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, features a skateboard-riding vampiress and awkward long pauses. Nice.

Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

  • Rating: Unrated
  • Runtime: 99 min
  • Genre: Horror, Romance, Thriller
  • IMDB Metascore: 81/100
  • Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi & Marshall Manesh

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Comic Book

When High Art Meets Pulp

Amirpour has a rogue eye for shot composition and photography. She puckishly bills her debut feature-length as “The first Iranian vampire Western”, and it certainly lives up to that moniker. Replete with an Ennio Morricone-inspired Spaghetti Western score, poignant intervals of our titular antihero listening to vinyl records, and a noir-esque aesthetic, A Girl is an opal gemstone for film buffs and collectors.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Set in a fictional “Iranian ghost town” dubbed “Bad City”, Amirpour’s Farsi-language film can only exist on American pavement — a black sheep of its target culture. To wit, it’s shot in Taft, a small town in Kern County, Southern California. And despite that, it effectively conveys the look and feel of a nondescript rural “nowhere” in Iran. From a technical perspective, the black and white photography adds titillating layers of sheen, anonymity and inter-dimensional mystique; a wise decision on Amirpour’s part. The town itself breathes in its own sentient space. It seeks to purge its drug-addled demons in a world that’s peculiarly stricken of law enforcement and moral consequence.

The Fanged Femme of Bad City

Bad City’s chosen pixie saboteur is embodied by our lonesome vampiress, only known as “The Girl”, a wandering homage to Sergio Leone’s man with no name archetype. She (and her very-biological need for blood) stalks Bad City’s residents with a quietly unscrupulous air, but shows chinks of nobility with the abject class of victim she chooses. Suffice it to say that we’re morbidly pleased by the demise of her first casualty.

The most conventional aspect of this film is its romantic core: During one of her nocturnal haunts, The Girl happens upon a hapless, would-be outlaw (Arash Marandi) with desperate family issues. She develops a remote affection for his naiveté and oblivious charm. Their first encounter is one of various melancholic baubles in the tale, and makes their minimalist love an enjoyable trope to witness.

Arash Marandi in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Time and Place for Matter-of-Fact Titles

A Girl is playfully literal: Its poster nearly resolves the plot in seven words. The title, of course, is to being a mouthful as the film itself defies being long-winded. This dichotomy is pretty neat, but expect to wade through long, seemingly pointless pauses — an expected hallmark of so many indie and mumblecore films. I can’t pretend to understand these beats in the script, or what’s to be ascertained by two characters looking at each other for long periods of time while listening to music, but it comes dangerously close to working in A Girl.

Sheila Vand

It’s all unbridled pulp, of course. We’re given a multicultural dish of spaghetti western, graphic novel, horror, and Iranian New Wave that’s fun and refreshing. It’s a ballsy intersection of sub-genres that maintains a consistent experience and never quite swerves into pretension. The plight of myriad indie films. As mentioned earlier, when A Girl falters, it does so in the second half. The script’s oddly long beats are obvious and don’t feel natural or organic, but fabricated to incite discomfort. Still, its flaws are hardly the point. It never feels boring or unoriginal (despite the subject matter). Its key strength, in fact, is its refusal to commit to the horror genre. Ultimately, it would rather use the vampire motif as a way of exploring the human condition — that pit of existential angst that lurks beneath apathy and egoism.

Suenos y Vampiros

This film is an experience rather than an investment in proper storytelling. So go into it as you would a cup of coffee with David Lynch, and ask yourself what a film based on a bizarre dream “you once had” would look like on celluloid. It’s the best way to justify the ending, an anticlimactic head scratcher. You’ll also chuckle (if not laugh) beside yourself during moments of dark humor.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of watching this genre-bending curio at the SIFF and (in case you haven’t noticed) it comes highly recommended. Now that it’s available to stream, there’s no better time to put those mainstream blockbusters on hold. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is now available on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU and Google Play.

Richard Sanchez (founder and editor) has a B.A. in English, and two minors in Psychology and Philosophy.  He does SEO by day and moonlights as an abstract expressionist by night.  Follow him on Twitter @InHarshLight or connect with him on Facebook.  Inquiries should be directed to [email protected].

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