It's hard to resist a horror movie described as an American-Iranian Vampire Western, but for whatever reason I didn't have time to check out on it's release in 2014. Which is pretty shameful for someone always on the lookout for new blood drinking movies to watch during those inevitable marathons. But at last I manage to take a quick look at Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
Bad City is bad. It's a weird limbo town where uncovered bodies lie in public ditches, oil derricks work ceaselessly in the day while drug deals and prostitution go on at night. Little in the way of normal life seems to go on here. American buildings, hairstyles and classic cars clash with Persian lettering lending it an otherworldly, out of time look. It's a sinister industrial nightmare like something from Eraserhead, with the black and white photography and eerie background noise completing the picture. Unfortunately for the residents the town is about to get worse as a new visitor arrives in the form of a nameless girl (Sheila Vand) stalking the streets after dark. After she has a run in with a local pusher, the fortunes of a young handyman Arash (Arash Marandi) and his addict father as well as several other neighbours soon begin to change, and not all for the better.
As things progress Arash finds himself meeting the girl who seems to be someone that has forgotten what it's like to feel human desires, though she's trying to walk a moral line which is blurred by her more supernatural needs. His lack of purpose seems to be something they have in common. She tries to do the right thing, questioning a woman selling her body on the streets and scaring a young boy in an attempt to set him on a better path in life. But this isn't really a tale of a creature of the night out for justice and things are a lot greyer as she admits to Arash the 'bad things' she's done as things take a romantic turn and the existential problems of life-in-death are hinted at. There are never any specific details on her life. Though she spends time in a basement room adorned with musicians listening to records, her more violent activities make this existence a challenging prospect.
At times style takes precedence over substance and it begins to feel like a music video, but it helps that the music is pretty good whether it's rock tracks by Kiosk or moments that seem like deliberate takes on certain Ennio Morricone's themes which give it that Western vibe. The lawless ghost town being visited by a mysterious newcomer also adds to that feeling. Ultimately the atmosphere and striking visuals work well to deliver an experience which is engaging enough to carry it all off even if things are always vague and mysterious; and it's worth checking out if you're looking for a fresh take on the subject which retains certain genre staples.