Director/writer Ana Lily Amirpour’s mixture of pulp fiction, Iranian New Wave Cinema and horror has created a beautiful dark fairy tale of a dangerous yet heroic she-vampire who swiftly kicks ass when needed.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is shot in black and white and set in an eerie ghost town called Bad City—an economically depressed and crime-infested home to misfits, pimps, junkies, prostitutes and street urchins. But the town’s most threatening creature is the one with fangs, wearing a chador.
Sheila Vand portrays the nameless vampire (known simply as The Girl) who keeps watch over the lost souls of Bad City. As the people are engulfed in their own pain and sadness, she observes injustices and chooses her victims. Her first target? A pompous, arrogant pimp named Saeed (Dominic Rains) who cheats a prostitute, Atti (Mozhan Marnò), out of money after he forces her into oral sex. In an interview, Amirpour explains,
She’s a fucking killer. I always thought there was this tension, like having a tiger and bunny in the same room … With the pimp, he thinks he’s the tiger and she’s the bunny, but really it’s the other way around.
As she roams around, the vampire finds herself lurking in the shadows behind fellow Bad residents, but not in an evil way. For example, she watches over Atti with warmth and protectiveness, as one would a sister. When Atti is being pestered by a drug addict, the vampire follows him and copies his every move. He then feels uncomfortable and runs off, flipping the script on street harassment.
The vampire also meets a young man named Arash (Arash Marandi), who is dressed in a vampire costume, high on Ecstasy and lost in the streets after a party. They end up at her apartment, where they begin to fall in love. But this is not your typical boy-meets-girl scenario: She’s a vampire, and he’s burdened by his father’s drug addiction. Fortunately, the vampire’s attraction to Arash is not entirely fueled by blood, and she finds herself immersed in the pleasure of his presence instead of the deliciousness of his flesh. It’s never revealed if Arash knows the girl he loves is really a vampire, but he does realize she is dangerous and knowingly puts his life at risk.
With few lines throughout the movie, the vampire is silent but deadly—yet she also shows human qualities of love, compassion and morality. She rides the streets on a skateboard, moving side to side like a stingray. And although she may not be entirely good herself, A Girls Walks Home Alone at Night has brought a form of justice to Bad City and its people.
Director/screenwriter Amirpour wrote each character with a particular actor in mind, and asked the cast to view such movies as Rumble Fish, Man Without a Name, Wild at Heart and Once Upon a Time in the West for inspiration . The vampire was influenced by the classic film Nosferatu and by Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Amirpour asked Vand to watch YouTube videos of cats and cobras for tips on movement and presence. She also wrote a 170-year background for the character (vampires are immortal, after all) that describes her history and journey to Bad City.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night doesn’t end with the final credits: Amirpour will soon be releasing the title as a comic book series. Meanwhile, the film has drawn great reviews and is nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards (best first feature, best cinematography and the Someone to Watch Award).
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is playing now in select theaters.