© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rob Edelman: An Iranian Vampire Movie

 Usually, vampire films-- good ones, bad ones, or indifferent ones-- are not my kind of entertainment. That’s just a matter of taste. But when I noticed that A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, a provocatively-titled new film that has just come out on DVD, is being sold as “the first Iranian vampire film” as well as an “Iranian vampire spaghetti Western,” well, that was an attention-grabber.

Granted, the characters in A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT all speak Farsi, but the film was not shot in Iran or anywhere in the Middle East. It was filmed in its entirely in California. And Ana Lily Amirpour, its writer and director, is an American of Iranian descent who was born in England and spent part of her childhood in Bakersfield, California, where A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT was partially filmed.

The film’s title is provocative because of what is hinted at regarding the title character. Will the girl walking home somehow find herself in danger, or is she the one who is on the prowl? Is she the one who is the source of the danger? In other words, will she be a victim-- or is this a film about female empowerment? Will she in some way be incited to rise up against anyone who might view her as a victim?

The setting is the appropriately-named Bad City, a grim urban wasteland. The title character is known as simply The Girl, and she is indeed a vampire. The Girl looks as if she is a refugee from a Jim Jarmusch or Quentin Tarantino film in that she is super-cool, super-hip, and all-attitude. She is garbed in black, she wears loads of lipstick and eye makeup and, when night falls, she strolls the streets of Bad City in search of some fresh blood.

One of her potential victims surely is deserving of his fate. He is a slimy, drug-dealing and drug-snorting thug who mistreats women. The word “sex” is tattooed on his neck and, surely, he has no concept of the power she wields when he attempts to abuse her. But happily, this creep is not the central male character. He is Arash, a troubled young man who may look hip because he is a white-tee-shirt-garbed James Dean-type. But he has troubles-- and he has integrity. He looks after his ailing father; he is kind to animals; and he never would take advantage of a woman.

Of course, Arash is attracted to The Girl. That is understandable. But he has no way of knowing who she really is. So the questions are: Will he become yet another of her victims, or will she see him for who he truly is? Will The Girl be able to distinguish between a male who is kindhearted and one who is an abusive thug?

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is so compelling, and so entertaining, because it oozes atmosphere. Its stark, desolate setting and black-and-white imagery are reminiscent of the very best film noir. Its hypnotic music score clearly is influenced by EnnioMorricone, the respected composer of many classic 1960s spaghetti Westerns. Now granted, like so many 1930s horror films, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is slowly-paced. But it is not leaden-paced. What makes this film so interesting is that it is different. It is daring. And it is well-worth discovering.

Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content