Rating: Not Rated
Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marno, Dominic Rains, Milad Eghbali
Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour
Vice/Kino Lorber
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

Here is something that doesn’t come along every day – a Farsi-language vampire story set in Iran, written and directed by an Iranian woman, Ana Lily Amirpour. Early into A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, we can surmise this wasn’t made in Iran (there’s nudity, blood, self-determining women and whatnot), but the Kern County, CA locations are for the most part persuasive as a city in the Middle East.

The city where GIRL takes place is actually called Bad City, a decaying and under-populated area where police are nonexistent, drug dealers take what they want and prostitutes ply their trade. There’s an open ditch full of dead bodies that nobody seems to even notice. Arash (Arash Marandi) is a relatively ethical young man, but he shares his home with his father (Marshall Manesh), who is a drug addict. When the father’s dealer (Dominic Rains) shows up, he confiscates Arash’s car in lieu of the money he’s owed. Arash decides he wants his car back enough to risk the consequences, and this leads him to cross paths with the Girl (Sheila Vand).

The Girl – we never learn her name – wears a black chador that covers her back from head to toe, though she leaves the garment’s front open to show her face and striped shirt. She watches, she stalks, she seduces and she feeds, though her victims tend to be men whose actions invite karmic payback.

The crisp black and white cinematography and the lack of bystanders creates a sense that anything could happen. When the Girl spreads her chador wide, gliding through a darkened neighborhood on a newly-procured skateboard, she looks like an updated yet classic iteration of the Angel of Death.

Writer/director Amirpour also creates an atmosphere of excitement. Because the Girl isn’t sure what she’s going to do in any given situation, we buy into the suspense of each sequence, hoping she’ll do the right thing and afraid she’ll damn herself. Vand is lovely and vulnerable and mysterious, even when she’s doing something as human as enjoying a pop tune alone in her room.

Human meets vampire is not an uncommon theme, especially these days, but Amirpour presents it with visual richness and visceral joy. It’s easy to engage with a movie whose makers know exactly what they want to show us and who are so sure-handed, even if the overall subject matter is familiar.

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