We’ve seen so many kinds of vampires over the years: caped counts like Dracula, who turn their prey into one of them; vampires who need their victims to reciprocate in the blood sucking for any transformation to happen, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; vampires that don’t create other vampires, but instead are simply demonic, hideous killers, like Count Orlok in Nosferatu; and teenage heartthrob vampires who sparkle in the sunlight, rather than burst into flames, like in Twilight. But until Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, had we seen a chador-clad skateboarding Iranian feminist hipster vampire?
I think not.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is probably one of the worst titles for a horror movie I have ever heard, but I do like how it subverts the viewer’s expectations. We assume that the Girl is going to be the victim, when in fact, she is the most powerful being in lonely Bad City: she is the vampire, and if she catches you being mean to a woman, she’s gonna getcha.
In this gorgeous black and white art film, we follow the story of Arash (Arash Marandi), a young man who struggles to take care of his heroin-addicted father (Marshall Manesh). After a fortuitous event, Arash is able to steal back his car from a drug dealer who took it as payment for his father’s heroin, as well as abscond with a briefcase full of drugs and cash. He then falls in love with the Girl (Sheila Vand) at a costume party, where he is dressed as Dracula and strung out on ecstasy, unaware that his beautiful bloodsucking crush is on a one-woman mission to eliminate the gangsters, pimps, and drug addicts of Bad City.
Being the ignorant Westerner that I am, I did a lot of research after watching this movie trying to figure out the differences between the burka, hijab, niqab, khimar, al-amira, chador, and many other things. I am now more confused than ever, except I’m sure that it is the chador which our vigilante vampiress dons: a large cloak that covers the head and body, but leaves the face exposed. Quite similar to your classic Halloween vampire garb, but without the cheesy collar. I loved this modern spin, the chador wrapping the Girl in an air of mystery and power, or billowing behind her as she skateboards down an alley. All sorts of social and political connections can be made because of her chador and the fact that her victims are men, but again, I’m no expert on the Middle East—I just think she’s a badass. Definitely one of the coolest vampires ever.
There’s a dreamy—and sometimes nightmarish—vibe to this film that really made me fall in love. Many scenes suspend Bad City in time. The oil drills silently moving back and forth, the way the Girl glides down streets like a ghost, the tense space between Arash and the Girl, where one can’t help but internally scream, are you going to bite his neck?! It’s clear Amirpour’s influences are from all over the map. It’s part Spaghetti Western with the barren landscape and techo-western music, part young-adult romance, part film noir by way of its angsty sexuality and grit, and part horror, what with the vampire and all. Why, there’s even a Dickensian street urchin, whom the Girl warns to “be a good boy,” else he might get what’s coming to him…
Here’s what you’ll miss if you cover your eyes:
Emo dancing to deadpan punk music
Brick wall punching
And so much more…