The First and Only Iranian-American Vampire Western (So Far)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night bills itself as the first Iranian vampire western. Which is akin to a film with the tagline “the first Arabic sex comedy”. Y’know, the line about the singing dogs. (The wonder is not that is done well, but that it is done at all.)

vapire - posterAnd yet this film may be unlike any vampire movie you have seen. Which is saying a lot because this particular subgenre of horror films is suffering from especially tired blood. ( Oops! I promised myself I would not make any tired stabs at wordplay considering that previous attempts at vampire “humour” in various media really suck.)

First of all, the film is entirely in Farsi. And the Persian language has never sounded so menacing as when the vampire leans down, stares a ittle boy in the face and says  ….. but you have to see the film to find out what happens next. (No spoilers here!)

Secondly, there is a soundtrack (with Farsi lyrics) that threads its way throughout the film, making the goings-on depicted here seem even more exotic.

Thirdly, this is the only film in which a toothy young vampire rides a skateboard. Horror movie legend Roger Corman, in a Q&A session with writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour included as a DVD extra, opines that no one can accuse her of borrowing that particular element from a previous flick.

There are pop culture references throughout this film, shot in black and white, partly as a homage to the creepy allure of vintage silents (F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu is a notable influence.)

The cast and filmmaker are obviously possessed with infinite patience as some of the scenes seem to move at a glacial pace but, in this case, it only heightens the suspense and accentuates the strangeness of the piece.

Twentysomething writer/director Ms. Amirpour, an Iranian-American graduate of the UCLA Film School, makes a striking feature film debut here (although she has made shorter pics and won festival awards prior to this.)

Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour

Ms. Amirpour seems in awe of Mr. Corman during much of the Q & A session but when they begin to talk about filmmaking (Is it true he made the original 1960 Little Shop of Horrors in a day and a half, she asks him at one point) all traces of giggly girlishness disappear and I get a glimpse of the poised and purposeful filmmaker she must be  on the set. Among other things, Ms. Amirpour reveals she spent months looking for the right locations (The San Joaquin Valley doubles for the setting of the film. Shooting this kind of project in Iran would have been “a suicide mission”, she confides to Mr, Corman.)

She also tells Mr. Corman that she couldn’t imagine filming something she did not write. This means that, for now, at least, Ms. Amirpour’s newfound clout will not be used to helm a Marvel Comics adaptation. (Her next project – which she wrote – is “a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland”  she told Filmmaker,It’s Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink with a dope soundtrack.”)

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