Take Sin City, Let the Right One In, and Touch of Evil and smash them all together. Now, add a healthy dose of Sergio Leone and you may have an idea of what A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has in store. Writer/Director Ana Lily Amirpour has aptly labeled the film an “Iranian Vampire Western,” and it follows the actions of the “Iranian James Dean,” with 1950’s Thunderbird to boot, and a vampire Girl around Bad City, an Iranian ghost town thriving on depravity.
Amirpour eschews traditional plot in favor of pure mood, shooting the undefinable Bad City in stunning high-contrast black and white. Accentuated by an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Iranian Rock to cues evoking Ennio Morricone, an atmosphere of horror and beauty firmly takes hold. Sheila Vand is captivating as the titular Girl, lonesomely stalking the streets of Bad City. Finding the striking balance between ultimate power and human vulnerability, Vand is marvelous. Responsible for the film’s multiple moments of spine tingling terror, she dons a black chador, typically associated in the West with female oppression, and wears it like a robe of power, elegantly gliding down Bad City’s starkly lit streets on a stolen skateboard. Feasting out of both desire and hunger, she preys primarily on predatory men, giving Girl a poignant bite of feminism. But Amirpour’s revelry in the pulpiness of her stylized creation keeps the thematic weight, which deals with isolation and economic oppression as well, from ever pretentiously overtaking the matter at hand. The matter at hand arises in the form of a humorous chance meeting between James Dean (a superb Arash Marandi) and The Girl. His car has been stolen. She’s fleeing the scene of a murder, having just killed the thief. A relationship sparks.
Amirpour’s blanket of tension, thrown over the entire picture, emits the feeling that anything could happen at any moment, undercutting the horror with sly humor and warm romanticism. Girl is a clear-cut argument for auteur theory, full of the sort of striking imagery and palpable atmosphere that can only be crafted by an artist. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is effortlessly cool, genuinely scary, deliciously pulpy, and yet thoroughly compelling. Forget witty final sentences declaring it “the best Iranian Vampire Western of all-time;” this might just be the best vampire film period.