Exclusive Review: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2014){0}

For all the whining and complaining we do about vampire stories that render the creatures as toothless and anemic whiners (my apologies to the fans of Twilight and/or Dracula Untold), there always seem to be a few independent filmmakers who find a new and novel use for the legendary bloodsuckers. This year alone yields films as interesting and disparate as Only Lovers Left Alive and Summer of Blood as evidence that, while vampires have certainly come a long way since Max Schreck and Bela Lugosi, they haven’t been completely demolished by young adult fiction or ill-conceived action epics.

It may take a while before Dracula is scary again, but until that time we can certainly appreciate little vampire tales like the willfully and enjoyably strange A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which is the first feature from Ana Lily Amirpour, and feels like a sly and respectful homage to filmmakers as disparate as Nicholas Ray, Rod Serling, Anthony Mann, and Jim Jarmusch. Sort of a western, kind of a sci-fi story, sometimes a film noir thriller, and most assuredly a beautifully black-and-white portrayal of two wildly different young people who come to forge an unlikely relationship, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is what one might call an “arthouse film,” in that it’s often more interested in mood, tone, music, and frame composition than it is in a straightforward narrative – but one doesn’t need a traditional plot-driven structure to appreciate this eclectic, serene, and sometimes powerfully moving film.

Plot-wise, all you really need to know is that Arash is a nice guy who deals with some pretty rotten people; “The Girl” is a vampire who prowls the empty streets of “Bad City.” Also there are various junkies, pimps, and hookers to deal with. (Sort of like a calmer version of Sin City, only without all the shrieking hormones.) But if you’re expecting a typical “anti-heroine vampiress wreaks bloody vengeance while wooing a sweet guy” story from this film, prepare to be disappointed.

Packed with film references both enjoyably obvious and very clever, and then sometimes languid to the point of distraction, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a refreshingly unpredictable film; it boasts at least two lengthy sequences that are simply beautiful to behold, scenes so good they warrant a look all by themselves; it’s full of strange music I’ve never heard before (and loved); it offers an exotic perspective one doesn’t get to see very often in American films (in this case: Iranian culture); it even has some sincere humanity as well as a few nasty bits of vampire-related bloodletting. Call it a “film noir horror romance” if you like, but the film certainly marks the arrival of a very interesting new writer/director of the female persuasion, and lord knows we can always use a few more of those, especially in the horror-friendly department.

Bottom line: I may not entirely “get” all of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, but I do know it earns a place alongside films like Nadja (1994), The Addiction (1995), and the aforementioned Only Lovers Left Alive as far as “weird but very cool indie vampire movies” are concerned.


Scott Weinberg