Arash (Marandi) loses his classic car to crook Saeed (Rains), collecting on a debt run up by Arash’s addict father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh). The Girl (Vand), a vampire, targets Saeed and Arash finds himself drawn to her.
It’s slightly misleading to bill this as “the first Iranian Vampire Western” because it’s actually an American film made by Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour in the Californian desert. Though the spoken language is Farsi and pumping oil-wells evoke the mid-East, it takes place in Bad Town, which has as much in common with Sin City as any real place in a real country. Of course, it wasn’t made under Islamic censorship, as is evident from the drug use, minor nudity, lack of any religious content and use of western vampire mythology. If it comments on the present state of Iran — which it might, obliquely — it’s also an archetypal, universal story.
Sheila Vand’s vampire heroine, the Girl, has a very distinctive look (trainers, horizontal-striped top and her Dracula-like veil-cloak), and when she takes a kid’s skateboard, she even starts gliding like a proper bloodsucker. She is surrounded by characters whose violent exchanges of drugs, cash and sex evoke the stylised gangster or Western films of the ’60s and ’70s. When he inherits the stash of a dealer killed by the Girl, protagonist Arash (Arash Marandi) exchanges his black leathers for Dracula fancy-dress so he can get into a society girl’s party and sell drugs. This leads to a relationship between the pretend-vampire and the real one which consists of lounging around, looking stylish in black-and-white, and trying to evade the sense of dread.
It looks most like Rumble Fish, as if it took place in a dystopia of the ’50s extrapolated into a post-collapse future — a pile of dead bodies mounts in a ravine, not all dumped by the Girl, and everyone is desperate, alone and obsessed. The characters are cartoons or attitudes rather than people, but the world they inhabit is beguiling, threatening and eerily credible.
By turns funny, vaguely creepy and too cool for school, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is certainly unusual — but also seductive and strange enough to stick in the memory like a fever dream.