A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 


Jurassic World is out there now, stomping over all previous box office records, but I went for this instead; a black and white Iranian vampire film. 

That isn’t quite was it is though. It is certainly monochrome, it is about a vampire and it is all in Persian but it’s not Iranian, not really. It’s an American movie, made with American funding, set in Iran but shot in California. The key film makers and actors are Iranian-American but this film could easily have been made in the English language. Not to do this is clearly a very deliberate decision and one that is inevitably limiting its audience. 

On the one hand it is totally understandable that writer director Ana Lily Amirpour should want to make a feature in the language of her heritage but I think the decision may also have been a commercial one and, in slight contrast to what I said about the film Trash, I can see the logic in this. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night could actually be more marketable because it is in a foreign dialect. 

The film certainly seems to be being sold distinctly on its Middle Eastern origins as the tagline is ‘The First Iranian Vampire Western’. (Incidentally it’s not really a Western either but I’ll let that one go. It does have a strong Western sensibility. In reality it is ‘the first spiritually Iranian vampire movie with Western themes’ but that’s a bit of a mouthful.)

I think what the people behind this film have recognised is that the stage they are standing on is a very crowded one. You couldn’t throw a sharpened stick in HMV without hitting a vampire flick and the fact that this movie is so very Iranian is probably the one thing that makes it stand out. This film has tried very hard to be art house too, with the monochrome and the subtitles and the pregnant pauses but if you shake it hard enough all of this falls away to expose the Stars and Stripes underneath. As well executed as it is the film is, it is pretty clićhed and the pop soundtrack and tie in graphic novel don’t help it look like a micro budget passion project either. It is as though Hollywood has become so fond of remaking foreign language horror films that now they are making the original versions themselves too. Stick this on the shelf under consciously cult and wait for the new version which will inevitably get a much wider distribution and make the real money.

None of this is to say A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not a good movie. It is wonderfully atmospheric, intriguing and ambiguous in all the right places. Also, as you would expect from something so deliberately artistic, the imagery is great as well. The vamp is a young woman who dresses in a long black cloak and rides a skateboard so while the movie observes some conventions it gives them an original twist. There is one moment where the girl skates down the road, cloak held wide flapping behind her, which is a brilliant play on the tired ideas of the flying/gliding blood sucker.

A Girl Walks Home at Night is an entertaining if unremarkable film but if you want to see people getting bitten by something other than dinosaurs then you might want to hunt it down. In the end though the most interesting thing about the film is the artifice in the set up and the publicity rather than that which appears on the screen.

The Ripley Factor:

Going back to my criteria on this the film does okay. 

Do the female characters exist only to define or motivate men? No, definitely not. The solitary girl with the nocturnal strolling tendencies is not really the protagonist but hers is clearly a substantial part and she walks her own path.

Are the women in the film believable as real people? That kind of depends on your belief in vampires. 

Are women objectified in a way that does not balance with the treatment of men in the film? I’m afraid there is one unnecessary boobs in the bath moment. 

Does the inclusion of the women in the film feel like tokenism? Again no, there are two three main women in the film and while predatory female vampire, rich party girl and prostitute are gender tropes, they all feature prominently in a small cast.

Is this one for the kids?

The movie is not even slightly scary but it doesn’t step away from the violence. There is nothing too extreme and the fact that it’s in black and white helps with the blood but things do get bitten off. (No, not those things!)


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