I’m not sure if A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a horror movie. Then again, I’m not sure if its a drama, a romance, or a western either. A Girl Walks Home is such a smorgasbord of styles and ideas it might be all of those things. This is what makes it such a unique experience. Did I also mention it’s a B&W American film set in Iran and filmed completely in Persian? How could you not want to see it?
Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night explores the seamy underbelly of a small Iranian town. Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young, hardworking gardener trying to provide for his drug addicted father Hossein (Marshall Manesh). Tormented by a drug dealer, Saeed (Dominic Rains), there’s little light in Arash’s daily existence. Things take a turn when the emergence of The Girl (Sheila Vand), a soft spoken woman in a chador kills the drug dealer. Does she use a gun? Knife? Try fangs.
Arash meets The Girl after getting high at a party—he’s dressed as Dracula by the way—and wandering around some neighborhood in the dead of night. The Girl has every opportunity to sink her teeth into a free meal, but pities Arash. They head back to The Girl’s home where they bond over music and somehow find a connection. It’s a beautiful scene set to White Lie’s song “Death.” It’s amazing considering there’s not much to it. The Girl has her face to the stereo as Arash creeps in, almost floating, as they prepare to embrace. Will she bite him? Will they kiss? The slow burning anticipation is palpable. It’s the best scene in the film, at least the most effecting, which is saying a lot, because this film is full of effecting scenes.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is gorgeous. I can’t remember the last time I saw a “horror” film so composed and visually stunning. It reminded me of a music video set to an eclectic soundtrack of 80s inspired indie rock and obscure Iranian music. B&W was an inspired choice. It makes the desolate setting look like a decaying desert. A ghost town if you will. Another one of my favorite shots was nothing more than The Girl riding her skateboard down a lonely street in the night. Not another soul for miles. It gives me chills.
This isn’t the kind of romance film you swoon over. It’s a lonely film with lonely people, stuck in undesirable situations. Arash must care for his difficult father. Hossein must struggle with addiction and loss. A character named Atti (Mozhan Marno) must struggle with her night to night existence as an aging prostitute. And of course The Girl, who is herself a literal monster, must struggle with isolation. Though the film does have glimmers have hope.
The film’s stylish presentation and unique setup are most likely what drew viewers in, but it’s the film’s naturalistic depiction of the characters that will draw them back. Feelings of loneliness and longing are universal. Whether it be in America or Iran. Humans everywhere experience the same kinds of heartbreak. Monsters too. And what’s scarier than loneliness? Maybe this is a horror movie. A new breed.