A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, reportedly the first ever Iranian vampire western, watches like indie horror raised on a steady diet of Tarantino and Sergio Leone movies. A spare, fresh take on the blood sucker story, it’ll make a interesting double feature with Jim Jarmusch’s 2014 entry into the genre, Only Lovers LeftAlive. In fact, Girl comes across as a younger, twee companion to Lovers. The two are similar in mood, tone, and movement, but while the former is like a night at a dance club, the latter is more akin to a sparsely populated watering hole where you know the bartender by name.
Bad City, a less stylized black-and-white version of Basin City from Sin City—and which is really Los Angeles standing in for Iran—is a ghost town haunted by the specters of junkies, hookers, pimps, and pushers. The entire film is clearly heavily influenced by comic books, visually as well as structurally and aesthetically. Arash (Arash Marandi), a young James Dean type with the requisite slicked back hair, plain white t-shirt, and car that’s his baby, wanders through this lonely dive of a town, tending to his addict father (Marshall Manesh). But he’s not the only one. Known simply as the Girl (Sheila Vand), roaming the streets at night in a billowing shawl damn near like a superhero, watching sad prostitutes ply their trade, a lonely vampire stalks her prey, which includes a drug dealer (Dominic Rains) who just has the word “sex” tattooed on his throat. I feel like that choice says a great deal about you as a person.
Gorgeously photographed, Girl has a surreal, dreamlike quality to it that, even though it was filmed in LA and produced by Elijah Wood, only adds to the sense that this film comes from somewhere else entirely, somewhere far outside the movie mainstream. The sound design does all kinds of interesting things, running from an atmospheric drone that throbs deep inside your chest and throat, to layered Iranian pop songs that play at near eardrum crushing levels. All of this helps establish atmosphere and tension, and underscores the fact that Girl scarcely says a word through the entire film.
The debut feature from writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night marks the emergence of a unique new voice in cinema. Comfortable living in a single moment for a long time, and content to leave its characters pasts cloaked in mystery, the deliberate, measured pace, and off kilter vibe is going to be a turn off for many viewers out there. However, if you’re looking for something unusual, like an indie rock take on a classic number, this is definitely a film worth checking out. Girl is proof you can still do something cool, strange, sexy, and intriguing with vampires. They don’t all turn out to be Twilight or True Blood. [Grade: B+]