Shallow Graves: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Beaming with an energy mined from every resource from French New Wave to John Hughes, A Girl Walks Home Alone at night is a feminist howl through a quirky romance, dripping with cinema come to bloom between James Dean and a skateboard riding vampire (yep). It shucks aside convention and expectation and finds a way to be both familiar and completely original while appearing effortless.

It centers on a group of people who have the misfortune of living out their days in an Iranian town that feels more like an industrial wasteland.  Their surroundings of pumping oil rigs and looming refineries mark their passions and their prison.  There is Arash (Arash Marandi) searching for his inner James Dean, Atti (Mozhan Marno) a prostitute lamenting her broken dreams, and Hossein (Marshall Manesh) Arash’s heroin addled father, broken by the loss of his wife. Their whole lives are altered when a girl, who happens to be a vampire, decides to kill a pimp (Dominic Rains) spurring an irreversible chain of events.

The Girl doesn’t so much terrorize the town of Bad City, rather she weeds it of its bad people, or in this case, the bad boys. Killing Atti’s pimp is a moral decision as much as it is fulfilling a biological need. After we see her scaring a little boy into dropping his skateboard by telling him she will be watching him for the rest of his life and he better not be a bad boy. Later on we see The Girl teasing Hossein, the addict, as he walks down the street. She shadows the old man while walking on the opposite side, leaving one to wonder what The Girl told him when he was a little boy.

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But, like Arash, The Girl longs to be somewhere, else some place far from Bad City, and while riding her new skateboard she happens upon our James Dean, Arash. She finds something curious about it, possibly the fact he’s on ecstasy, possibly just pity, but nonetheless love is sparked.

Sheila Vand is striking as The Girl wearing a full chador it is a symbol of the oppressed female, but turned into a symbol of power the way The Girl wears it like a traditional vampire cape, or waving in the wind while riding her skateboard. Much of the film is seen through her eyes as she watches over the others, particularly Atti, who she seems to have a kinship with, perhaps reminding her of her own desperation, and Arash, whom perhaps reminds her of the person she was a long time before all this vampire business.

Shot in stark black and white reminiscent of the old silver screen, director Ana Lily Amirpour goes to painstaking detail to capture a taste of that cinematic romance so familiar to us, even going as far as dressing The Girl eerily similar to the iconic Jean Seberg in Breathless. The confidence to subvert such expressions and to wade into unconventional waters so freely is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre and genre pictures in general and an example of how female film makers like Amirpour are beginning to stand at the forefront.

One more note; this film also features the best performance by a cat in movie history.

See also:

Nosferatu the Vampyre (Herzog, 1979)

Near Dark (Bigelow, 1987)

~James Merolla

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