31 Days of Halloween — Day 5: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 2014

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

To call director Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” unique is an understatement. Though shot in Northern California, the movie is set in Iran (all the characters speak Farsi), and tells the story of a female vampire (decked out in an Iranian chador) who feeds on the male “undesirables” of Bad Town, an industrial community that, despite being a prime area for oil drilling, is home to some very poor people (the setting gives the film a western vibe, which makes sense considering it has been described by some as an “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western”). What’s more, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” was shot in stunning black-and-white, and even features a romantic subplot (involving the vampire).

Oh, and there’s a scene where the chador-dressed vampire rides a skateboard… can’t forget that.

Its unusual qualities aside, however, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is an engaging, often moving, and sometimes spooky film about two very lonely people who, though quite different from one another (he is alive; she is undead), fall deeply in love.

Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young, hardworking Iranian landscaper who can’t seem to catch a break. He lives in a desolate area of Bad Town with his heroin-addicted father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh), who owes so much money to his drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) that poor Arash was forced to surrender his beloved car as payment for his father’s debts.

Hoping to get his vehicle back, Arash steals a pair of diamond earrings from Shaydah (Rome Shadanloo), the daughter of the wealthy family that employs him, but when he goes to Saeed’s apartment to swap the earrings for his car, he finds Saeed dead on the floor, blood dripping from an open wound in his neck.

Saeed, it turns out, was the latest victim of an attractive female vampire (Sheila Vand) who roams the streets of Bad Town at night, preying on criminals and lowlifes (the vampire marked Saeed for death after watching him physically assault Atti, a prostitute played by Mozhan Marno). Sensing an opportunity to make some serious money, Arash steals Saeed’s drug supply and starts selling it himself.

At a night club, he even gets to impress Shaydah by giving her a complimentary ecstasy pill. But when she rejects his advances, a sullen Arash leaves the club and, during his long walk home, comes face-to-face with the vampire, whom he falls in love with almost instantly. The vampire invites Arash back to her room, but finds she’s unable to turn the lovestruck young man into her next meal because she, too, has developed feelings for him!

In many ways, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is more like an arthouse film than it is a genre flick. Along with its exceptional black and white photography, the movie is deliberately paced; director Amirpour never rushes things, and even throws in a little slow-motion from time to time. The setting is equally as strong, and the often-deserted streets of Bad Town perfectly emphasize the loneliness that plagues the film’s various characters.

The cast also does a fine job, especially Sheila Vand as the vampire, who even when she’s not speaking is saying plenty with her eyes (when alone in her apartment with Arash, she stares for a moment at his exposed neck, and we immediately sense the conflict that is raging inside of her).

As for its more horrific elements, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is, first and foremost, a drama (with a touch of romance), but does feature a handful of frightening scenes (one in particular where the vampire stalks a young boy played by Milad Eghbali through the darkened streets of Bad Town is incredibly creepy).

I also like how the vampire can conceal her fangs until she absolutely needs them (seeing them “pop out” during the scene with Saeed is arguably the film’s coolest surprise), and throughout the movie we’re never quite sure when and where the vampire will attack, making the film a bit more suspenseful than it might otherwise have been.

In the end, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” may not be as scary as, say, “Nosferatu” or “Salem’s Lot,” but it is a wildly original motion picture, and horror fans would be doing themselves a disservice if they passed up a chance to see it.

—Dr. Shock

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3 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 5: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) — by Dr. Shock

  1. Captivating review Doc. I will definitely make time to watch this.

    My day 5 flick was The Rezort (2016), a competent British zombie feature. Years after a zombie outbreak which killed 2 billion people, the survivors are rebuilding their world. The undead are all gone except for one place ‘The Rezort’. This luxury hotel on a “sun drenched island” allows priveleged visitors to take part in a safari with a difference – the prey are all zombies.

    The lazy way for me to sum up the film is Jurassic Park with zombies. To be honest I don’t think such a comparison can be avoided. This film however, lacks the epic scale and big budget of the aforementioned dino-romp but I think it did pretty well without them.

    There were a couple of moments where I jumped (which I always appreciate) and I really liked the concept. The effects were good, but being a bit of a gorehound I felt they lacked guts. In fact my lame pun can be applied to the whole film. It has good intentions but there is nothing that really grabs you by the short hairs and makes you pay attention.


    Day 05 – Wish Upon (2017)

    Earlier in the year, I saw a trailer for Wish Upon before some movie at the movie theater. I couldn’t explain why, but it looked like a fun movie to me. Sure, it looked pretty stupid, but I had penciled in that I would be watching it at some point in the year. Much to my delight, Wish Upon was one of my most enjoyable watches of the year. However, that’s not to say it’s a good movie at all. It’s terrible, truly dreadful, but it’s the sort of terrible that it’s so bad that it’s good.

    Right away, the biggest issue with the film, which is also my favorite aspect, is that so much of the drama and horror fails on a basic level and instead I found myself laughing out loud instead. It got to the point where I had to go on IMDb to see if it’s actually a horror comedy. According to IMDb, it’s fantasy, horror, and thriller. The horror and thriller elements are greatly undercutted by such scenes as one character potentially dying in a bathtub, but managing to get their head above water, only to knock themselves out by hitting their head on the faucet coming off as more of a slapstick moment than a devastating moment. Terrible things happen to minor characters, but since there’s zero character development, it’s impossible to care about anyone. There’s one character, Uncle August, apparently has had a rather bad rift with Clare and her dad, but it’s never explained what happened and in the one scene where Clare and Uncle August interact, they seem just fine together. What’s the purpose of adding the tiniest bit of character backstory when you don’t show evidence for it? Laughing at the misfortune of these underdeveloped characters was my go to move while watching Wish Upon. However, this laughing at tragic moments wasn’t just kept to minor characters. Even when the lead character, Clare, gets hit and bounces off of a car, possibly to her death, it’s so over the top that laughter is the only acceptable response. If the creators of Wish Upon intended for this to be a strictly serious film, they failed on every level.

    Another weakness of the film was the confusion over time progression. I flat out how no idea how much time passes scenes and even over the course of the entire film. There’s montages, leading you to believe a significant passage of time has occurred, only to then get the impression a day has passed. Characters are killed off, but only found far later in the film, which leaves the viewer wondering if that minor character has no one in their lives to worry about them after zero contact for X amount of days. Throughout the film, there’s a promise of a school dance, which typically in films is an effective way to judge how much time has past in a film, but while we’re shown the advertising of the dance, the drama of Clare being asked to the dance, initially not giving an answer until later on (No idea how much longer) agreeing, but then the dance never actually arrives. Even Clare’s birthday, which gets referenced at the beginning of the film as happening soon and we get to see the birthday later in the film, gets confusing because that would suggest the entire film’s events takes place within a couple of weeks, which seems logically impossible, particularly with the inheritance and getting rich wish that comes true. I’ve never been awarded an inheritance from a family member, but that takes time to go through, right?

    There’s plenty of other lacking elements of the story. For a Monkey’s Paw-based tale, the wishes are pretty predictable and unimaginative. You’re certainly not seeing much creatively from that standpoint. I had to question a lot of actions by characters from a logical standpoint. Clare made such a big deal about her father digging through the garbage near the school to find useful items, but had she not crossed the street and confronted him, absolutely no one would have even noticed that he was Clare’s dad. There’s plot contrivances as well. What a coincidence that Clare just so happened was given the Chinese box from her father after one of her dad’s most recent dumpster dives when it just happened to be the very box that led to her mother’s death a decade before. If you’re going to have the box be connected to both Clare and her mother, why not just have the box be something that’s collecting dust in the attic when Clare finds it? It’s unbelievable that her dad would just happen to stumble onto it elsewhere in the town a decade later. Furthermore, we’re to believe that Clare’s mom had this box and I presume she had the box long enough to make some wishes, are we to believe that Clare’s dad never saw it back then?

    Overall, Wish Upon is a mess. I struggle to think of actual praises for the film. The acting is never good with the character of Ryan standing out as being especially bad whenever he’s trying to project emotion. Since the Monkey’s Paw story has been done many times before, there wasn’t anything in the film that felt creative. Yet, despite all of these issues,I still loved the film. It may have failed colossally with its intention, but the unintentional comedy kept me entertained for the entire duration of the film. I’d compare it to the 2015 film, Unfriended, as being a film that was good for all of the wrong reasons. I’d recommend watching Wish Upon with some buddies and drinks all around. It should be a blast.

    Rating: 5/10

  3. Day 6: Bad Moon (1996)

    Ted (Michael Paré) is bitten by a werewolf and has to deal with the consequences. He moves close to his sister and nephew in hope that their love and family bond will break the werewolf curse.

    This film is based on the book Thor by Wayne Smith which is the name of the family dog. Thor can sense Ted is a werewolf and loyally guards the family from him. The acting is good but Thor is clearly the standout in this film. There are some good werewolf attacks (special effects by Steve Johnson) and the film moves along quickly. Watching a household dog versus a werewolf is a neat idea and Bad Moon keeps to this premise.

    If you’re like me, you’re expecting to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Bad Moon,” but it’s never played. I’m guessing that the title was just for marketing. 6/10

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