It isn’t very often that I get the chance to say that I’ve seen an Israeli vampire movie, but first time director Ana Lily Armipour has given me that chance. Her film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a rare little gem of a movie, striking a perfect balance between spine-chilling scares and weirdly executed humor, all wrapped up and accented with a black-and-white bow that gives the film a sense of horrifying beauty.
It all takes place in the Iranian ghost town Bad City, which is, as the title “ghost town” would hint, almost desolate. There are occupants, though (few as they may be), and they all have one thing in common; they’re being stalked. Their stalker? An Israeli beauty, equipped with nothing more than a Muslim chador and, as we come to find out, a nice set of fangs. The movie is a quiet one, showing her prowling through the town at night, seeking whom she may devour.
It’s important to note that the movie never portrays her as an emotionally void monster. Lily Armipour’s script has a strange way of presenting this girl (her character is simply named “The Girl) as a kind of vigilante, sprouting her fangs and sinking them deep only when there is a morally guilty host. In one sequence, her first attack, she finds a man receiving oral sex from a prostitute. After the fact, he refuses to pay and throws her out of his car. The Girl follows him and, well, “sucks him off” in a way I’m certain he wasn’t anticipating.
The movie doesn’t revolve solely around The Girl, though, as we meet Arash, a local nice guy who is struggling to take care of his father, who has recently become a heroine junkie. It’s a nice bit of character development, but there isn’t anything as compelling as seeing Sheila Vand’s serene and spectral performance as The Girl. It only takes a single shot of her standing idle on the sidewalk (or in the street) to get lost in the moment, as the score’s range stretches as far as the east is from the west. Sometimes a character will turn around in the street and face The Girl, in which moments the composer decides to insert a speaker-rippling set of bass drops. Other times, we get a weird insertion of Middle Eastern fusion and Iranian rock, both of which play during the scenes in which The Girl rides her skateboard. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
All of this is captured in gorgeous black-and-white by cinematographer Lyle Vincent (he shot for Cooties, which starred Elijah Wood, who serves as an executive producer on this project). If not for the Zippos, expensive gold watches, and plasma screen TVs lurking in the background, we would almost be able to believe that these events occurred in the eighteenth century. Almost.
That’s the beauty of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It’s strangely original, director Lily Armipour herself calling it “the first Iranian vampire Western.” And seriously, where else can you see a silent, chador-clad, skateboard riding, Israeli vampire seductress? Nowhere. And to be completely honest, that chador is about as dreadful as anything Dracula ever donned.
1 hr. 40 mins.
Starring Sheila Vand
Written and directed by Ana Lily Armipour