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Iran/USA 2014
Directed by
Ana Lily Amirpour
107 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
3.5 stars

Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, A

Synopsis: In the imagined Iranian town of Bad City, a desolate place of death and despondency, the lives of six people – a young man (Arash Marandi) and his father (Marshall Manesh), a drug dealer (Dominic Rains), a rich girl (Rome Shandanloo), a prostitute (Mozhan Marnò, and a street urchin (Milad Eghbali) – intersect in different ways with a lonely, wandering vampire (Sheila Vand).

From its James Dean cool opening shot to its fatalistic ending, this film sustains a hip, classy, heightened, film-noirish style largely thanks to Lyle Vincent’s high-contrast black and white photography, Sergio De La Vega’s evocative production design, and a terrific eclectic soundtrack featuring a mix of Bei Ru’s Middle Eastern fusion, Radio Tehran’s Iranian rock and US band, Federale’s Spaghetti Western style music. Add to this the underplayed delivery of the tight cast of characters and you have a film that is great to look at and to listen to, even if it suffers from a touch of style over substance.

In the first few scenes as we follow Arash, the young man in white t-shirt and jeans carrying his cat, we encounter an amazing and memorable image of an open pit filled with dead bodies. Arash walks past this gruesome sight, seemingly oblivious and, although we return to this location a number of times, there is never an explanation for it. In a way, this sets the tone for the film. This town, its pit of bodies, its pounding oil derricks, its population of lost souls and its female vampire stalking the streets at night just is what it is. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the hopelessness a place like this offers to the young, where a boy like Arash is saddled with a drug-addicted father and can tell you that he had to work for 2191 days to afford his ultra-cool, perfectly restored 1950’s car.

There’s a touch of Sin City here (and not just because this town’s called Bad City) as Arash negotiates the criminal element embodied by Saeed the drug dealer until he eventually encounters the femme fatale vampire as he wanders home from a costume party coincidentally dressed as Dracula. Once he meets her, things change and not the way you might expect. This isn’t the kind of vampire film with gouts of blood and jump-cut shocks. In fact, there’s almost no real horror in it at all; just a lot of unsettling and disturbing scenes. She’s quite a discerning vampire, this girl who walks home alone at night. Her victims seem to be limited to those who, in one way or another, victimise others. In this sense, she’s the archetypal gunslinger; a loner who appears from nowhere to avenge the true victims whom she chooses to spare. Vand’s performance as the vampire is compelling, relying more on stillness and silence and a hollow stare rather than a host of prosthetics and special effects. As her relationship with Arash develops we start to see them not as horror film tropes, but as two outsiders who have found each other in a place where the only future is to leave.

Amirpour makes a good fist of her first feature and is deserving of its selection for the Next Program at this year’s Sundance Festival. It may not have the emotional depth and profound impact of Thomas Alfredson’s 2008 vampire film, Let The Right One In and it will almost certainly disappoint anyone who’s looking for a good horror flick, but it’s refreshing to see a new take on a well worn genre that finds a way other than parody, macabre eroticism or gory bloodsport to make its point of difference.




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