A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Genre: Suspense, Romance
Overview: In the quiet, melancholy town of Bad City, a vampire stalks the night in search of deserving prey and unexpectedly finds something more.
If you had ever paired the words “vampire” and “western” together in a sentence before I experienced this film, I’d have immediately cringed and pictured something along the lines of Cowboys and Aliens, with more blood and less extraterrestrial. But this film mashes the two unrelated genres together seamlessly, resulting in a final product that combines two familiar territories in order to build something completely original and hauntingly beautiful. Film fans who have grown weary of the recent over-saturation of the vampire tale can get excited again after last year’s release of both A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Only Lovers Left Alive. Both of these films spin the current popular trends of this subgenre by avoiding the overtly sexual or excessively campy methods and instead opting for a more subtle, mysterious approach, giving audiences a new (or rather very old) kind of vampire that’s less Stephanie Meyer, more Stoker and Le Fanu.
Director Ana Lily Amirpour expertly crafts the silent yet corrupt town of Bad City, setting the film in black and white to emphasize the sense of unease and lack of principles that color the streets. Yet the most startling and impressive thing about this film is not the setting or the storyline, but the soundtrack and how it’s used. Both music and silence are used equally as effectively throughout, each emphasizing The Girl’s nightly prowls and moral ambiguity. She rocks out to grunge reminiscent of the ’90s era while primping and applying lipstick before slinking quietly through the alleys of Bad City to find her next deserving victim. This balance of loud and quiet manages to enhance rather than detract from the film’s overall fluidity, complementing the stylistic choices to create a viewing experience that’s both smoothly rhythmic and abruptly fragmented.
This mix of old and new, along with the combination of sexy and cool wouldn’t be possible without The Girl herself, brought to life (or undead rather) by Sheila Vand. She exudes both the confidence and loneliness that comes with the territory of roaming lost cities as a vampire while maintaining a hypnotic, mysterious vibe that triggers a sense of unease over her intentions, which we’re never quit sure of, even after the music stops and the credits roll.