“An Iranian vampire western.” That’s how A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) was described to me when it was on the film festival circuit a few years ago. As a huge fan of the horror genre, I had to check out the first Iranian vampire/western ever made. Director Ana Lily Amirpour utilizes elements of spaghetti westerns, pulp horror and Iranian new wave cinema in this genre-blending flick.
The film is remarkable for its use of multiple genres, the black and white neo-noir cinematography, and it was even adapted into graphic novel form after the film was released. The film is full of emotion, feeling, and even in its darkest moments, the humanity of the protagonist compels us to her story. There are elements of romantic tension, but Amirpour makes every moment on screen feel authentic and the romance feels natural to the story.
In most horror films, the pacing is quick and intense with shots constantly shifting, but this film benefits from its slow pacing. Many shots sit on screen, static and unmoving, but that stillness brings a unique depth to each scene. Often when images sit on screen for too long it slows down the pace of the film, but Amirpour uses the quiet and unmoving visuals of those shots to bring in the horrifying tension that is needed in this genre.
Along with its visuals, the music and score in the film are used in a way that makes each scene feel like the music both belongs in that moment, and that the music helps to open each scene with a set tone. The way that sound is weaved into the other elements of the film continues to set Amirpour’s film apart from the rest of the genre.
Amirpour’s directing is brilliant and unique. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is like nothing I have seen before. The film both rejects and embraces the typical horror genre tropes and is truly a cinematic masterpiece for not only the genre, but for anyone who appreciates visionary filmmaking.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is available to watch on VUDU, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Itunes, Kanopy, and it is currently on the horror streaming app Shudder. Visit the film’s website here. Follow Ana Lily Amirpour on Instagram and Facebook.
Mikayla Daniels has a BA in film and a MFA in screenwriting. A screenwriter and filmmaker originally from Alaska, she currently writes and hosts for KSPS Saturday Night Cinema, is a regular contributor to The Journal of Screenwriting and a judge for various film festivals. Her essay on Frederica Sagor Mass is in “When Women Wrote Hollywood”.