A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
This world-first Iranian Vampire Western is a last minute contender for one of the best films of 2014. Seriously.
December 29, 2014
After spending the last few years in the grasp of tweens and sexless Mormons, it's good to see the vampire movie finally biting back. From the ingenious goofiness of What We Do in the Shadows to the eerie urban decay of Only Lovers Left Alive, it's been a banner year for big screen bloodsuckers, a trend that continues at ACMI this month with the most fascinating shakeup to the genre yet. Sexy, scary and fearlessly subversive, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a last minute contender for one of the best films of 2014.
Billed as the world's first Iranian Vampire Western, the debut film from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour takes place on the outskirts of an industrial ghost town, ominously named Bad City. It's here that an aloof young vampire in heavy eye makeup and billowing chador (Sheila Vand) stalks the streets in search of victims to devour. What she doesn't count on, however, is the romantic attention of a handsome local drug dealer (Arash Marandi), who unwittingly presents her with a difficult choice: pursue a relationship or eat him for dinner.
If the plot sounds thin, that's probably because it is. A spiritual descendent of David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, the California-based Amirpour is far less concerned with narrative than she is with style and atmosphere. The moody black and white cinematography further enhances the film's already palpable sense of menace, while also calling to mind prototypical vampire movies such as Vampyr and the original Dracula. The eclectic soundtrack is equally evocative, Amirpour spinning a Tarantino-esque blend of European and Iranian pop music combined with the rousing strains of an old school Spaghetti Western.
Yet despite her aesthetic self-consciousness, Amirpour's film is in no way lacking in substance. While vampire stories are traditionally about sexuality, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night reframes the discussion to focus more on gender. It's obviously not a coincidence that Vand's vigilante vamp feeds exclusively on misogynistic men. Likewise the pointed choice of costume: her traditional head-to-toe black garb, so often viewed as a sign of oppression, re-appropriated as a symbol of her power.
Even the film's title is misleading. Amirpour sets us up to expect a helpless victim, only to deliver something very different indeed. Bold and surprising, this is a truly stunning debut. Do everything you can to seek it out.