Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Reviewed: 12 May 2015
A purported Iranian vampire movie set in the fictional wasteland of Bad City but actually filmed in California, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is Ana Lily Amirpour's gorgeous black and white, hypnotic take on a modern telling of the ancient story. The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalks the denizens of Bad City as a sort of angel of death and spiritual guide, appearing in their paths late at night, shrouded in her chador, occasionally riding a skateboard. The film chronicles her interactions with a pimp, a drug addict, that man's son Arash (Arash Marandi), a little boy, and a prostitute. Amirpour's aesthetic decisions focus on the shadows, leaving people out of focus within a shot, alongside luminous black and white shots with trance-like music and long takes create a sense of building dread throughout the film. The less detail that is given, the more curious I became.
The Girl offers warnings to those around her, and her interactions with Arash appear to change her somewhat. They form a connection, an alliance of sorts, which leads to all sorts of consequences for both of them. The film is heavy on its mood and atmosphere, with nearly all of its running time occurring at night. The cuts to the oilfields with derricks steadily drilling are meant to parallel the sucking of blood, and the whole transplanting of the setting is interesting and spooky. The image of The Girl riding a skateboard with her cape-like chador flapping all around her is one that will not leave me easily. There is something disturbing about how unassuming and small The Girl is while also being completely in control and menacing. There is a haunting sadness to her relationship with Arash, particularly, one that Amirpour hints is vaguely incestuous.
The film made me deeply curious as well, and the coming together of so many styles in a vampire film is quite fun. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night feels like a western at times with its empty streets and nightly showdowns. There are elements of horror that work quite well because of the suspense and the sense of restraint. Amirpour's eye for capturing an image is keen and thoughtful; I look forward to seeing more work from this emerging artist.