And let me be among the first say, it is delicious. That's just one way to describe how absolutely hypnotic musician-turned-filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour's A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is. If only for its cool black-and-white photography, awesome indie rock/80s pop soundtrack and one of the baddest goth heroines we've seen in some time.
But if the premise (which follows the nocturnal escapades of a female vampire) sounds derivative to you at all, then just wait. It gets zanier. Amirpour personalizes the well-worn concept by blending the cinematic styles of 50s horror icon Vincent Price, 80s romcom king John Hughes and the millenial badassery of Robert Rodriguez with her own Iranian rock feminism -- resulting in a gorgeous, mysterious and seductive film. Picture it, if you will, a young woman vampire (remarkably played by Sheila Vand), wearing a striped Freddy Krueger-like shirt and sneakers underneath traditional full chador, prowling the streets of Bad City for misbehaving men. Her transportation of choice? A skateboard.
It's this fusion of several different cultural influences together that make the film so intoxicating to watch. But at its core the film is about the human connection, or the lack thereof. As Vand's character, simply referred to as "The Girl," lurks through the town (which actually looks like the backlot of an old John Wayne film though it was shot in a California desert), she encounters "The Persian James Dean" charmingly played by Arash Marandi, who is simultaneously slinking down the street after leaving a particularly joyless costume party. The two share very little conversation. Actually, it is our James Dean incarnate who does all the talking as he tries to mask his insobriety. But the two strangely hit it off as she struggles to hide her fangs from him and he likewise avoids telling her about his drug addicted father whose habit costs him his kickass convertible (a prize possession he worked hard to obtain). They are virtual strangers but united in that they both remain invisible except to each other in a town overrun with abominations. The world may be coming to an end, but as long as they've got a decent Lionel Richie song to listen to and each other, it may not be as bad.
This awkward 80s-styled romance humanizes an otherwise bloodthirsty tale in which a dangerous vampire seeks vengeance on men like James Dean's father, who solicits prostitutes and forces them to partake in his habit. Or the tattooed drug dealer/pimp who's so obsessed with his hustle that he doesn't even notice that The Girl he welcomes into his home is not interested in sex...
Rapturous, bold and even funny at times, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is that Iranian feminist vampire film you never knew you always wanted. Amirpour creates an unusual world that defies era and location. The electrifying performances further illuminate Amirpour's vision that is sexy without being about sex and modest without being at all conservative. It's so smart, meticulous and fresh that I can only hope it marks the beginning of a provocative new franchise.
Rating: A (**** out of *****)
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles Friday, with national expansion to follow.