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.
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