A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – Review *****

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Imagine Clint Eastwood as a vampire. And then imagine the vampire is a teenage girl with an excellent taste in music. Welcome to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the first feature by Iranian director Ana Lily Armipour, and also a vampire western shot in black and white. You are now free to run for the hills. But then, you would miss what’s probably one of the best independent films of the year.

In Bad Town, somewhere in Iran, Arash steals a cat. He just managed to buy the car of his dreams after working hard for 2191 days, mostly gardening for rich folk. Only his junkie father has run into debt, and Saeed “The Pimp” takes the car as payment. But, from the shadows, a skateboarding figure that hoovers through the city streets is ready to sink her teeth into the necks of the bad guys…

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Iranian New Wave meets Jarmusch meets graphic novels, Armipour’s film greatest strength is the mix of serious horror with a wicked sense of humour (I mean, c’mon, a vampire that skateboards and falls for a guy dressed as Dracula?). Not only this is the first vampire film ever in a middle eastern setting, the word vampire is never mentioned. That’s when you know you’re watching a proper vampire film. That, and no sparkling business. No hocus pocus of hiding from the sun. No garlic or stakes through the heart. Armipour knows we, the audience, are well aware how the tale goes, and so allows herself to get on with her story, no explanations needed. And not much dialogue either. Like in a proper western, it’s all about looks, silences, and slow, deadly movements. Plus, with such a great soundtrack, all moments are precious to enjoy it throughout. Symbols succeed in rapid succession, archetypes are questioned and, at the end, blood is darker when shot in over-contrasted black and white.

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Arash Marandi, who by strange coincidence plays Arash, nails the boy next door character, and as he’s the one always around (by sunlight and moonlight), he may as well be the honorary protagonist of the story. Of course, a very silly protagonist, telling a real vampire he’s Dracula and then getting involved with a girl he does not know the name. But hey, young love runs free. Sheila Vand, our vampire girl, dances in her room to her eclectic  collection of vinyl’s, and manages to incarnate at the same time the fallen angel and the vengeful devil that her part requires. But, biggest performance acclaim will have to go to Masuka, who was not even written in the script. S/He impressed the director so much that Armipour included her/him in some juicy scenes. Hats down to Masuka the Cat and her/his feline superiority.

As a beautifully monochrome, foreign version of Only Lovers Left Alive, it is well worth getting off your coffin to have a look at A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Warning – you may feel hypnotized from the first moment to the end, when they ride in a white car into the sunset… sunrise… damn, that’s why there aren’t many vampire westerns around…

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will be in UK cinemas May 22

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.