Friday, January 22, 2016

Show and Tell: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

With the many end of the year "Best Of" lists floating around right now, I'm realizing just how many potentially great horror movies I need to catch up on from 2015.  One in particular that I'd been circling for a while is A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  After hearing it come up again on a recent podcast, I finally took the time to give it a watch.

Released in 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is described by writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour as an "Iranian vampire spaghetti western."  Set in the fictional town of Bad City, the movie centers on Arash, a young gardener who meets a girl late one night after a party.  What he does not know, however, is that The Girl is a vampire who feeds on local hoodlums in the city.  As the two begin to get closer, The Girl's secret hangs over them, threatening a dangerous end.

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this movie, as not all of the reviews were favorable.  The A.V. Club calls it an "interesting bore," whatever the hell that means.  The critic goes on to explain that nothing really happens in the movie, which, after watching it, I have to disagree.

Writer/director Amirpour has gifted us with a fascinating antihero in The Girl.  What first intrigued me about her is her unassuming appearance.  Most depictions of female vampires on film rely on overt sexuality.  Corsets, tight spandex, etc.  However, while The Girl is quite beautiful, her standard outfit is basic pants, a white shirt with black stripes, and a chador.

Under this unassuming facade, however, is a killer, which we are quickly alerted to when she mauls a local pimp after he invites her into his apartment.  This scene plays out very slowly, as she patiently waits while the pimp does lines of coke, lifts weights in front of her, and attempts a seductive dance that would have been my cue to kill the dopey bastard.  But she just waits, wordlessly, until he tries to make his move on her, which is when she in turn makes hers.  It's not overly gory, but it is brutal (particularly the crunchy sound effects) and it sets The Girl up as someone who is not to be fucked with.

For me, the deliberate pacing of the rest of the movie works so well because there's always that threat that she could strike again.    As her relationship with Arash progresses, we are left wondering whether or not she's going to kiss him or feed on him.  The Girl, after all, is not some kind of stock feminist superhero, killing only those who have done wrong to the women in Bad City.  She'll feed on random people if the need arises.  And that's part of what makes her so interesting.  You can't always count on her to make the right choice, much like you can't always count on anyone to make the right choice.

While A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not action-packed, it is by no means boring.  It's got one of my new favorite movie monsters with a balanced mixture of pathos and dread.  Plus, it's got a soundtrack that I know I'll be listening to a lot in the future.  Amirpour's follow-up is going to be a movie called The Bad Batch, which she describes as "Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink."  I'd like to purchase my ticket now please.

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