Movie Review - A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
There are horror films that inspire terror, causing viewers to hide behind their partner’s shoulder or rise from their darkened living rooms to flick on the hall light, and then there’s Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. This film, although not particularly scary, still generates the same visceral and emotional reactions from its audiences as some of the more terrifying vampire films that have been released over the last few decades. There are so many elements at play in this film, and are done so well that I was swept up completely in the storyline. I laughed, I gasped, and I truly felt the plight of The Girl as she ambushes Bad City, bringing with her a whirlwind of feminine justice to the rogue town.
The Girl, played by the lovely Sheila Vand, is a lonesome vampire that begins to stalk the residents of Bad City. Bad City itself is like any early western town—a dark and desolate place filled with intriguing individuals including a beautiful and poetic young man named Arash (Arash Marandi), Arash’s drug- addicted father (Marshall Manesh), and of course, the standard western trope of the “Big Boss” Saeed (Dominic Rains) who not only controls the town but is a hideous misogynist and forces women into prostitution.
The plot is pretty straight forward; love, revenge, and death set the backdrop of Amirpour’s fictional town. Still, there are many other elements that help move this film across different genres. The Girl and Arash’s romance, the clash of good and evil, Amirpour’s ideals on female subservience, and a killer soundtrack composed of 80’s Iranian Rock and UK pop music that enhances the movie’s atmosphere very well.
There are no elements of the plot that haven’t been seen before, but Amirpour shows us that a genre can easily be reinvented with the mechanisms of storytelling. Why have the two star-crossed lovers say they love each other, when their facial expressions can tell us their entire past, present, and future with one smoldering glance? Why explain the depth of Arash’s father’s addiction, when we can show him in a state of inebriated stupor, with his face cut with light and shadow? Why bother to explain the dirge of Saeed when you can create an unsettling environment that is linked his apparent power over the citizens of Bad City?
What’s enjoyable about this film is the care and craft Amirpour put into every scene. Although this film was shot exclusively in Southern California she manages to manipulate the scenery in such a way to make us truly believe this film was shot in some fairytale city in the Middle East. The dialogue, although sparse, is in Farsi with English subtitles, and there are small details like oil fields in the background to help create the illusion of the film being a true product of the Middle East. I will warn viewers and say this movie can be slow at times, but it feels like that was intentional on the director’s part.
Dreamy and whimsical, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is a love story with elements of feminism, western, and horror that are merged perfectly into a single film. With each viewing, I love this film more and more.
- T.C. McKeever