Sunday, 24 May 2015

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT review

Well received at the 2014 London Film Festival and other international festivals late last year, the striking A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night arrives in cinemas this week. When his beloved car is taken by a local drug dealer as payment for his father's increasing debt, Arash seeks to regain what is rightfully his and keep his father out of trouble. But when he encounters a mysterious girl dressed in black leaving the dealer's apartment, his priorities quickly shift to learning more about her.


Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and based on her short film of the same name, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a new and striking entry into the vampire genre. Offering a commentary on the role of women in horror (as well as the view of Iranian women to western audiences), the title itself conjures imagery of women in peril; something that the film is quick to subvert by making its central character (known only as "The Girl") a bloodthirsty killer.

Actually, bloodthirsty may be a tad too far a description, as we are left largely in the dark about The Girl and what her motives may be. She is seen to feed in a traditionally vampiric way, but appears to be more driven by social and moral injustices she is witness to. Prone to intimidatingly following people on the streets, she seeks to punish the men who do wrong and in one of many tense scenes, relishes the chance to terrify a young child into being a "good boy".

Her only notable affection is towards Arash, a young man who has styled himself like a small town James Dean knock-off, struggling to look after his grieving and drug addicted father. In this strange, fictional Iranian town of Bad City, the character's may all speak in Farsi, but the film is not dependent on dialogue to move the action forward. This is a film that is all about atmosphere and creating a specific tone and mood, as one scene set against the White Lies track Death proves. The modern, unapologetically gothic rock song is played almost from beginning to end as the two share a lingering look. With two characters alone in a room the romantic subtext is clear and not in need of any explanation.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night deserves to be ranked alongside the year's other new and exciting horror, The Babadook, for creating a new, unique and instantly recognisable symbol of terror. It's the simplicity of The Girl's appearance that lends her a sense of misplaced innocence, as evidenced by the ghoulish drawing of her that has been used as part of the film's promotional campaign.. She is even seen riding a skateboard; a brief flash of childish exuberance in between kills. The film also brings to mind early David Lynch (the sounds of industry and monochromatic photography evocative of Eraserhead) and there are echoes of the Swedish modern vampire masterpiece Let The Right One In, in that there's little if any background given to the film's central figure, the music posters on her bedroom walls the only potentially misleading clue as to how long she has been around.

It's also a film with some genuinely darkly funny moments, The Girl's first real encounter with Arash being as he stumbles home from a costume party dressed as Dracula. Note also her subversive copying of a local prostitutes finger sucking when she pays a visit to the dealer's house.

This film should be commended for its ability to create horror using such simple methods. There's no outlandish gore or even many special effects on show here; just an innocent looking girl with a mesmerising and captivating stare. It's a classic vampire movie that relies on a sense of foreboding; a million miles away from the legions of vampire armies that fill modern Hollywood tales. All this film needs to create a modern vampire classic is a girl. Anything else would be literal overkill.


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