A hijab-clad female vampire stalks people in an Iranian ghost town in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Bad City is an Iranian ghost town home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps, and other sordid souls. Little do these foul residents know that they are stalked at night by a female vampire (Sheila Vand), who looks to most like an unassuming young girl wearing a hijab. The Girl crosses paths with a James Dean type named Arash (Arash Marandi) and the two strike unlikely connection. However, will The Girl’s vampire nature get in the way of this budding romance?
The debut feature film by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a film that is being touted as being the first Iranian Vampire Western. Indeed, the film is one that crosses many genres. The vampire aspect of the plot obviously fits the film within the horror genre, however there is also the budding romance between The Girl and Arash and there are even aspects spaghetti westerns, including a very haunting montage, with music that sounds like it’s coming from a Sergio Leone film.
If there is one way to describe A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, it’s that it is a very stylish film. The film is shot in a very stark black and white and the outfit of The Girl, which includes a black hijab and striped shirt, helps to make the character stand out against the drab background. The film makes also makes a heavy use of music, whether it be the aforementioned score or various songs that the characters play and dance to, with the music sometimes taking the place of dialogue. In fact, there is one standout scene in the film, involving a very slow seduction between The Girl and and Arash, as a song plays in the background.
Even though A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has plenty of style to it, the film does suffer a bit when it comes to the substance. Other than a key moment late in the film, it is almost inconsequential that The Girl is a vampire in the first place. That said, she is also somewhat of a morally complex character, since she is shown threatening a young boy one minute and then riding on his skateboard the next. Even though shown to be quite sinister early on, she seems to only really target bad people. However, she feels enough guilt about her actions that she is bit reluctant to be with Arash when he starts showing affection.
In fact, it is probably Arash’s thread that is the weakest element of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Styled like the Persian James Dean, Arash is a somewhat morally ambiguous individual, who is seen dealing drugs one moment and caring for his junkie of a father the next. While he is central to the main dramatic arc of the film, Arash’s story is not as interesting a The Girl’s.
At the very least, it can be said that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a pretty unique film. Even though the plot of the film doesn’t really match the use of visuals and music, it is probably safe to say that this will be the first (and possibly only) time anyone sees an Iranian vampire western.
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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night opens today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox