By Zachary Landua | the Duquesne Duke
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is definitely a sleeper-classic for fans of scares. One part horror, one part romance, this movie clashes the surreal with the all-too-real to deliver a gut-wrenching tale of love in a bad city. Even though this film came out a year ago, not enough people talk about it, and that’s a real shame for such a slick and stylish film.
The plot focuses on Arash, a young man who works long days to support himself and his heroin-addicted father. The pair is hounded by a drug-dealing pimp who accosts Arash’s car as collateral for the father’s mounting debts. Through a series of events, Arash ends up with the pimp’s stash of drugs and money and struggles to figure out what the right thing to do is with the new-found freedom this ill-gotten wealth provides. Meanwhile, a mysterious girl roams the city, acting on her own whim and satisfying her vampiric needs.
The plot, like most horror movies, matters little; it simply serves as the framing for the overall themes and, of course, the scares. There is a wonderful subtext of overthrowing the oppressive patriarchy, especially when considering who the titular “girl” is. The obvious answer is the vampire, but her dominating behavior (as well as her being a supernatural creature) complicates this image. But what of Arash, a twee, border-line romantic whose job is to literally maintain houses? He seems to occupy a more feminine role than the vampire and could very well be the “girl,” a point the film even highlights by dressing him up as Dracula. The confusion of gender roles is a common trope in horror, but it’s refreshing to see a film reverse the typical female-as-man prototype seen in so many films.
Admittedly, the film is not that scary. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” follows the path of “Let the Right One In” by focusing more on the disturbing and creepy relationship between the mortal and immortal than scaring the audience. But what makes the film unique is the aesthetic, which is unbridled in the field. The film is shot in black and white, and it almost looks like the cinematographer aimed to capture images that were never captured back in the 30s and 40s. For example, there is a wonderful scene where The Girl, dressed all in black, rides a skateboard directly at the camera, and to see her face and her robe flowing behind her is stunning to witness in action. Director Ana Lily Amirpour’s heritage is obvious in the setting of an unnamed Iranian city, but her eye for the details of the mysterious pushes this film into the higher echelon of film. The atmosphere in this film is palpable, and Amirpour should be applauded for her first run as a director.
All that said, if you are a fan of horror films, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is stylish from start to finish, and unnerves as much as it entertains. As the first Iranian-Vampire film, it sets a standard for cinematography for the genre and smashes all expectations. It should be at the top of everyone’s to watch list this Halloween.