Intriguingly billed as an ‘Iranian vampire Western’, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is certainly a curious hybrid. Set in Iran but shot in California by a Margate-born director, and with Elijah Wood listed among its executive producers, the dialogue is entirely spoken in Farsi. To further display it’s cross-cultural credentials, our nocturnal protagonist is also a skateboarding hipster, no less, with a taste for ‘80s 12” vinyl. The score, meanwhile, mixes Iranian pop, Morricone-inspired guitar riffs and Naughties English indie.
Taking place in the derelict Bad City – which resembles a cross between Detroit and a frontier town in a Western – it introduces the film’s titular vampire (Sheila Vand) as a kind of feminist avenger, meting out justice first to the abusive local pimp before gruesomely eliminating a number of male characters who have somehow transgressed. She befriends a prostitute (Mozhan Marno) and scares the Bejeezus out of a young boy; critically, she also strikes up a relationship Arash (Arash Marandi), a James Dean wannabe who improbably owns an impressive vintage Thunderbird. They meet, incidentally, when he’s high on Ecstasy, returning from a fancy dress party dressed as Dracula. She wheels him home on her skateboard.
Jim Jarmusch is evidently an influence on the film’s sharp black and white cinematography, coolly enigmatic characters, dry humour and pervasive mood of existential ennui. There’s a touch, too, of David Lynch, 1950s delinquent films; stylistically, it falls in with the current trend for original and stylized vampire films. But it would be disingenuous to suggest first time writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s film is simply the sum of its influences. Her camera work is lithe and fluid; she heightens drama through supple camera movements and otherworldly silence. A tracking shot of the girl skateboarding along a silent residential street at night, her chador flapping behind her like wings, is one of many memorable images.