A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.
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★★★★★ review by nathaxnne walker (undead) on Letterboxd
Sometimes before you fall in love or at the very beginning of falling in love there are signs and wonders whereby what is coming to pass signals itself to you because something so vast and so powerful could not happen without announcing its presence, its necessity, its inherent factualness. Much of our lives it seems are spent in conditions of obscurity, of might-be, of might-have-been, or was-but-is-gone-now, so when there is a falling-in-love, one that is real love, true love, one which will forever alter you, which will not leave you in the condition it found you in, even if after that fact it falls away, it becomes part of the architecture and ruin of the past which we call our present, the here and the now which is fleeting and unfixed, continually destabilized like a broken reflection or a shadow uncast, whatever you are here, however unknown, you were known once, recognized once by something which looked at you, which looked into you and thereby made you into something other, the you that is now and shall not always be. Know that what we are, however fallen, however indeterminate, lost even to ourselves, know that all of that is the product of love, a real love, a true love, one which called to you, which called you from unbeing, a love which made you and unmade you, a love which, however distant, can never be anything other than what you are and have been and shall be, however much we wish it gone, or wish it had never been, wish for it to never have called our name, to never have spoken that name aloud, to have named us from the very start.
★★★★½ review by DirkH on Letterboxd
Like a jazz infused fevered dream, this twisted fairytale shows what happens when Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turn out to be the same person.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a subversive horror tale in which role reversal makes for an interesting shift in the usual power balance so predominantly present in the genre (or most genres for that matter). The beauty of this monochromatic gem is, however, that it is never on the nose about what it tries to convey.
With a slow burn subtlety it manages to evoke a sense of dread caused by the titular character and in the mean time create a destitute ghost town which feels more like some kind of purgatory than the real world. And in this town the girl stalks, observes and protects. Taking on the shape of the single minded town's conscience, she is both saviour and beast in one.
Opposed to her is an equally interesting character Arash who is lost in the town's spiderweb like hold it has on its inhabitants. He is an interesting lost soul and the way the connection between him and the girl shapes up is very intriguing and handled with the same transcendent, dream like pace so very present throughout the film.
I loved this film. It is beautiful, unique and plays around with expectations brilliantly. And even though it sometimes lingers too much in its own atmosphere, it's easy to forgive it its slightly wonky pacing as it actually manages to be truly different without compromise. It feels genuine and passionate and that always wins me over.
★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
Those who know me, know that I’ve never been a true fan of the Vampire genre. I liked Interview with a Vampire well enough, but didn’t really love it. The seemingly insatiable appetite that the general public has for the blood suckers continues to mystify me.
A few years ago at TIFF, my vampire loving wife picked Byzantium, director Neil Jordan’s return to the genre 18 years after his genre high point, Interview. I have to say I was mildly intrigued by his take and the relationship of his two female leads. The TIFF before last, another Vampire take .. this time by Jim Jarmusch. Wow, how did he manage to refresh an overexposed genre with such ease? OK, this has to be the seminal Vampire film that cannot be transcended in terms of originality and characterization. I believe that completely, and in believing such, I don’t have to watch any other Vampire film.
I then see my friend Len’s review of an Iranian Vampire Western. Immediately there is controversy that this isn’t, in fact, an Iranian film, it’s filmed in California, and funded in the US. I actually don’t think that matters a hoot, and I don’t think that British born and US raised director Ana Lily Amirpour mining her Iranian roots to craft an entirely new take on the Vampire is anything other than brilliant. It doesn't matter that it’s filmed in California, as opposed to Iran, and that the actors are American / Iranian, with the emphasis on American. What matters most is that Amirpour brilliantly used obfuscating language to deliver a hard sci-fi concept. This is an American film, but because it’s set in the fictional Iranian town ‘Bad City’ she’s free to comment on North American culture while the audience is distracted by subtitles.
For a first feature, I have to say that I’m damned impressed. If I would have to compare, I’d say this is Sin City meets Tarantino and Lynch with a hint of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Lily Amirpour is unafraid to hold on a dramatically beautiful shot for as long as it takes to deliver her thin exposition, knowing that the viewer won’t be listening to the rather unimportant diatribe, but rather concentrating on the majesty and mystery of the visuals.
Although on a first watch it didn’t really try to unravel and explore, but for the vampire themes of sucking the life out of humans paired with the unrelenting oil pumps sucking the life out of the earth was certainly interesting.
This might just be my favorite Vampire film ever. It’s on Netflix US, and I strongly suggest you give it a try.
★★★★ review by Naughty aka Juli Norwood on Letterboxd
A film that chooses to tell the story through magnificent NOIRish cinematography for the most part rather than rely on the insufficiency of words that all too often fall on deaf ears!
Where words can be misinterpreted or be accused of being too heavy handed in delivering its message director Ana Lily Amirpour uses striking imagery most effectively! The messages her imagery conjure leave no room for doubt or misinterpretation! The message sent is loud and clear and never ventures into heavy handed territory!
It is a thing of absolute beauty! Striking black and white cinematography gleefully playing with the shadows and light!
This isn't a film so much as it is the purveyor of a mood or feeling! The actors evoke such highly charged emotions with nothing more than a look of yearning! The long shots leave me weak in the knees and utterly breathless! My eyes gorged themselves repeatedly throughout this visual feast!
To state it is not your typical vampire film would be a huge understatement! If you go in with notions of seeing a horror film about vampires you could very well end up walking away unsatisfied! Try to go in with no preconceived expectations or details other than knowing an Iranian director uses the western vampire as a vehicle to deliver her vision to her audience and you could walk away a very happy camper!
FYI: Director Ana Lily Amirpour performed the long skateboarding shots and is an avid skateboarder!
★★★★ review by ScreeningNotes on Letterboxd
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes our modern anxieties about female sexuality and turns them on their head by making the lone girl (the subject of fear) into the predator. But far from making this into the male fear-fantasy you might expect (i.e. women are evil and want to drain our precious bodily fluids) or the opposite puritanical revenge-fantasy you might want (i.e. people are evil so we should drain their precious bodily fluids), it instead gives her agency and offers a complex morality play with no easy answers or safe solutions.
Arash is a kind, naive young man who enjoys driving his fancy car and struggles with his father's addiction to heroin. When he's forced to give up the car to pay his father's debts, their relationship is put on thin ice. In comes an alluring young vampire only known as The Girl whose nocturnal strolls are not the result of innocence but of hunger. She preys on sinful men that the world will get along fine without—a commodity there's no shortage of in Bad City. With Arash slowly falling into the underworld of drug culture, there's a constant subtle tension that pervades the rest of the movie concerning whether she's going to fall for his naive charms or eat him for his ethical slip-ups.
But while both characters have their altruistic sides (Arash is amiable; The Girl doesn't kill him when he isn't), this is Bad City, and the entire community is run through with a particularly virulent strain of corruption. The two most potent images we're offered of the landscape are a pile of dead bodies dumped in a ditch and a field full of pumpjacks pulling oil from the earth (draining it of its bodily fluids). Arash becomes a drug dealer over the course of a single (classically edited) montage. The Girl's most honest moment is when she confesses to a prostitute that she identifies with her, as the Bad in Bad City. This place is filled with evil and populated by evil people trying to accumulate more evil for themselves (money, drugs), and like the world of film noir it all slowly infects the lives of both Arash and The Girl.
Also like the world of film noir, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is shot in beautiful black and white and features some absolutely stunning neo-noir cinematography and atmosphere. The visuals call attention to themselves with their crisp compositions and high contrast; like its characters, the film is defined by the extremity between like and dark. Like the subject matter it presents, it is surface beauty in order to hide the moral decay which lies underneath. Here this distinction highlights the boundaries of class: a gardener is separated from his employer by a pearly white balcony. The Girl forced to walks the streets at night is shrouded in a dark black robe—an icon which simultaneously echoes Dracula's cape and the Islamic hijab, twisting a religious symbol into something which is at the same time unholy and proletarian.
Like any story with ambiguous answers to the questions it asks, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will inevitably play better for some audiences than others. The loose ends in the screenplay (one or two characters disappear without much closure) make it a frustrating experience emotionally, but for me it all adds up thematically. After mulling it over, as I go back through my notes everything with a question mark makes sense. It's a touching romance between two lost souls that features smart social commentary and a stylish play on vampires and film noir. It's one of the most excitingly fresh and original movies I've seen this year so far and is a new contender for my Top 5 Vampire movies of all time.
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