Monday, October 12, 2020

Nerds on Tour: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Ana Lily Amirpour, dir. (2014, film)


Location: Iran (Persia)

Package Type: Film

Itinerary: Here in Bad City, there's a ditch where the town dumps its dead. That should tell you a lot about Bad City. Arash lives in Bad City, but he's a good dude. In a city full of drug dealers and worse, Arash works hard, and has worked for years to save up in order to buy a classic car. His pride and joy.

Arash also takes care of his widower father, who is addicted to heroin. It feels like a pain-pills-gave-way-to-worse situation. But Arash's father, Hossein, is nevertheless in deep to a drug dealer, who takes Arash's car as partial payment. This dealer guy sucks a lot. So none of us feel too bad when he picks up an innocent-looking Girl, tries to convince her to become a prostitute, but instead she grows fangs and murders the dealer for his blood. Not a huge loss, and when Arash comes by to try to get his car back and finds the dealer dead and mutilated, it's the easiest thing in the world to take his money, and his unsold drugs, and dump his body in the ditch where these things go.

Turns out, Arash isn't a great drug dealer! He tries to offload some of his stuff at the club, but a pretty girl instead convinces him to ingest some of it himself. So Arash gets blitzed. Stumbling around, lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, dressed in a Dracula costume, Arash comes upon The Girl. An actual vampire. He assures her that he is not to be feared. It's only a costume. He is harmless and charming, so she takes him home.

That's where things get more complicated, and where they begin to unravel.

Travel Log: Let the Right One In is the character-driven, off-the-beaten-path vampire movie par excellence, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night owes a lot to that earlier, Swedish film. While the plot points and age-ranges differ, the vibe is decidedly similar. 
And in a low-budget film with only a small number of characters, it must be said, it's pretty easy to predict the ways in which these few characters might intersect. That doesn't take away, however, from the charm of this film. 
For a movie where people have their limbs bitten off, bodies are routinely dumped in ravines, and drug addicts are used as prey, it's a super-charming adventure! Throughout, the audience knows more than the characters, so one of the most interesting balancing acts the movie pulls off is the shifting of perspective between Arash and The Girl. The ways in which they come to see each other, and to interpret one another, are the areas in which this movie really shines.
It was a little disappointing to learn that, though the film was written and directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour and billed as "the first Iranian vampire movie," it was actually shot in California. It's set in a fictitious Iranian city, though, and the actors all speak Persian. The Iranian life it depicts is one of nightclubs, music, drugs, prostitution, and wealth disparity. It's probably a vision of Iran that many Westerners wouldn't expect, and a depiction that would make it dangerous, if not impossible, to actually shoot the movie in Iran. Hence, the California stand-in. Walking into this sphere of decadent nightlife, wearing a traditional chador covering, The Girl presents as something very different from what she really is. She looks like a modest, possibly devout individual, when in fact she is the most powerful — and depending on your definition, unholy — being in the film. It's a clever redirect that plays on cultural codes and expectations. 
Also, it must be noted that the movie has an all-time great movie cat, and the black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous.  


The Adventure: 4/5
The Scenery: 4/5.
NerdTrip 8/10

Posted by Vance K — cult film reviewer and co-editor of nerds of a feather since 2012, fan of vampire movies since the local channel showed that blue-tinted print of Dracula one Halloween, lo these many years ago.