March 20, 2015
Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour
Sheila Vand as The Girl
Sheila Vand as The Girl
Arash Marandi as Arash
Fans of artsy productions are going to cherish a film like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night far more than those accustomed to more typical terror. There’s no better way to describe it than as an arthouse piece with heavy emphasis on unconventional camera techniques and a bleak monochromatic visual approach. Shot in black and white, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour uses long shots and contrasting lighting to generate an original appearance that does indeed prove to be magnetic. Having said that it is important to reiterate, this isn’t the kind of picture that is going to win fans over unanimously. As a whole, leisurely fans are probably going to see the film as boasting a few too many cons to counter every pro proffered by the film.
The story is just as much a love story as it is an actual horror – or vampire, to be more specific – tale. There are a handful of aggressive and frightening sequences, but ultimately, those moments play backup to the development between male lead Arash and the mysterious woman… who walks home alone at night (she remains nameless throughout the 99 minute run time). Said woman targets scumbag hustlers, pimps, homeless and more as she wanders about the streets of Bad City late at night. Her design seems to be a combination of pest control and actual satiation, as she drains blood in a bid to gain the sustenance she requires while gradually cleaning the streets up. But when she stumbles upon Arash, highly intoxicated and tripping out on a streetlight, her instinct to murder meets the breaks. There’s an odd connection between the two, and when Arash wraps her in his arms to keep her from growing even colder than she already is (we obviously know why), both she and the viewer alike know her relationship with the sad human is going to differ greatly from those we’ve witnessed developing throughout the first act of the movie. A spark of affection exists and grows, and we the viewer follow along as this strange creature’s acts continue to have a major impact on the impressionable Arash.
In regards to concept and overall execution, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night really isn’t a groundbreaking film. We’ve seen arthouse pics in the past, and we’ve seen vampire tales spun into outright love stories as well. Those aren’t territories that remain entirely unventured. However, despite the fact that the movie isn’t quite as ambitious as it seems to want to be, it does comfortably pull the viewer into a strangely inescapable grasp. The nameless woman is an intriguing ball of yarn that we’re eager to unwrap, and her sudden yet simple transformation into full on bloodthirsty vampire is a little surprising and certainly satisfying. But inescapably endearing as those aspects may be, once we hit the one-hour mark, the picture seems to slow down dramatically. We’re talking damn near a screeching halt. And if you’ve got a short attention span, you may find yourself struggling to stay plugged in to the viewing experience.
There’s no fault to put on performers Sheila Vand or Arash Marandi, they’re both strong, young thespians who bring their A-game to the project. Furthermore, the supporting cast which includes Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò and Dominic Rains; they’re all quite impressive in practicing their craft as well. The bare bones nature of the story and production are the areas open to criticism. It’s a slow film, and there aren’t many characters to become invested in (the town looks to house about 10 people in total). A lack of characters can mean challenging obstacles for a writer who wants to generate invigorating story jolts. It isn’t impossible to do so, mind you, but Ana Lily Amirpour may be just a shade too green to pull it off at this point. That’s not to discredit her effort here, as it is a refreshing piece of film despite the handful of noticeable hiccups. There really is heart and passion in the project, and that earns huge points from this writer.
Having now read some reviews of the film, it is a bit confusing to see how so many cinematic pundits have jumped to brand the flick a vampire western. There’s nothing western about it. But, it isn’t so hard to understand the tremendous praise the picture is receiving. It feels unconventional, and for a subgenre such as this, we don’t see that very often. There’s also a charming vintage vibe that pumps through the film that’s going to win big points with key demographics. Those who love throwback Universal features are going to be reminded – at times – of Tod Browning’s game changing 1931 hit Dracula, and there’s nothing shabby about that. The minimalized score and simplistic cinematography should also leave you reflecting on age old tales that put story before shine. Those are qualities that don’t disappear with multiple viewings, they’re qualities that tend to continue to sing with viewers long after a single viewing.
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