Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Posted by Matt Foley on June 24, 2015 in Blog, Carly Stevenson, Reviews tagged with , , , ,

image 1Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

By Carly Stevenson (University of Sheffield)

 

This debut from British-born, Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour is at once nostalgic and innovative in its approach to the ever-popular (and some might say oversaturated) vampire motif. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night assimilates a wealth of classic horror imagery: the jerky body movements and monochromatic aesthetic give the film a surreal quality reminiscent of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. And yet, this nod to early European horror contrasts with more contemporary themes of female empowerment and liberation.

In a similar vein (pun intended) to Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), Amirpour’s inspired interpretation of vampirism luxuriates in themes of addiction, isolation and fear of contamination – whether physical or psychological. The setting – an Iranian wasteland called ‘Bad City’ (possibly a nod to Sin City, as several critics have already pointed out) – is a locus of teeming vice, populated by addicts, prostitutes and degenerates. The suburban gothic geographies in these films function almost elegiacally: the seedy, run-down wasteland of ‘Bad City’ in A Girl Walks Home and the dilapidated fringes of Detroit in Only Lovers Left Alive are essentially burial sites for humanity and ruins of civilisation. And yet, desire (or, more appropriately, appetite) is the force that allows the central characters to momentarily transcend their depressed circumstances.

The most memorable scene from A Girl Walks Home is the sequence in which The Girl (Sheila Vand) persuades Arash (the male lead) to pierce her ears with a safety pin so that she can wear the earrings he offers her as a gift. This strangely romantic moment reverses the vampire/victim relationship and the vampire’s flesh is punctured. Crucially, this act is consensual as well as erotic. Compare this to the scene in which The Girl attacks a womanizing pimp after he mistakenly takes her for a prostitute and you have one hell of a feminist overtone.

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At its blood-red heart, A Girl Walks Home explores ideas of loneliness and belonging (or lack thereof). The film moves fluidly between genres and cultures, making it incredibly difficult to describe faithfully. Although the language is Persian, Americana infiltrates everything, from the pop culture posters on The Girl’s bedroom wall to Arash’s James Dean coolness. Like retro indie horror It Follows (2014), Amirpour’s film resists fixed temporality – that is to say, both films have a self-consciously (and self-ironically) dated quality that compliments the undead subject matter wonderfully. All in all, this stylish, slick story is testimony to what you’ve scarcely dared to hope for in recent years: vampire films might finally be cool again.

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