Without a doubt, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is the most beautiful horror film ever made.
Lyle Vincent is the cinematographer of note who helped bring Ana Lily Amirpour’s amazing film to light. Written and directed by, Amirpour, her Persian language horror was shot in Taft, California with actors of Iranian descent.
Every actor, from Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi, to Dominic Rains and Milad Eghbali, a young boy in his first film, delivered excellent performances. With the direction, cinematography, eclectic music, acting, and well-written dialogue, as well as the pace, this is the best horror film from 2014, as well as one of the greatest of all time.
Arash (Marandi) is a young man with a hot American car wandering the streets of “Bad City.” His father’s a junkie, the pimp wants his car, a street urchin wants his leftovers, and it’s clear Arash wants out. But a girl (Vand) walks through the neighborhood leaving bodies in her wake who may prevent Arash from breaking out on his own.
Right from the beginning, we know two things thanks to Amirpour’s storytelling and use of theme: This isn’t a normal place, and the choice of shooting in black-and-white isn’t simply to save money. Normalcy is thrown to the wayside when we see Arash walk over a bridge. Underneath is a ravine populated by many a dead body. He doesn’t care, and apparently no one else does either. The use of black-and-white not only captures the grayness, the starkness of what we only know as “Bad City”, but the compositions: Vincent’s exploitation of light, dark, and shadow, create not only a sensual noir feel, but like the characters, we are relegated to purgatory. A place where light cannot stand on its own and neither can its opposite. It’s a blatant Yin Yang world, and if one wants to tip the well-balanced scales, they can’t make it happen from within the city’s borders.
Each character is damaged and far from perfect, caught in the netherworld between good and evil. Atti (Mozhan Marnó) is a prostitute abused by her pimp (Rains) and the customers who desire her, yet she’s also quick to react negatively with strangers and her body language reeks of apathy, even though she’s looking for respect. Atti doesn’t enjoy her lifestyle, yet, like every other character in the film, she is trapped and cannot escape. In this case, the players are not physically prevented from leaving Bad City but their complacency keeps them where they struggle. Maybe they won’t leave because some other place could be worse, or because they may be tantalized by the wonderful things the dark may sometimes offer, or maybe they just don’t think they’re worth it. Either way, the presence of The Girl may prevent them from choosing.
Every frame of this film is a piece of art, and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT should be shown in a gallery instead of a sterile, commercial theatre. The music is the perfect topping for every scene, whether it’s traditional Iranian or “Death” from White Lies. Amirpour has created a strong horror that has grit and beauty, and a feminine edge without placating to tropes, cliché, or expectation.
Oddly enough, Amirpour culled the most amazing performance from Musaka the cat, the greatest ever captured on film from a feline.
Watching A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT may have one thinking of early David Lynch, or even Marco Bellocchio’s drama FISTS IN THE POCKET, or a more grown up version of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Regardless, Amirpour has delivered an intelligent, riveting, and existential experience that is not esoteric. It’s arthouse without the pretension or malaise. Her feature is smart, compelling, and conjures emotion, and maybe this is why Elijah Wood chose to help produce the feature.
In every shot there is a sense of danger, an element of foreboding that should capture the imagination of the most ardent horror fan, as well as those who care little for the genre.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT will linger in your mind, swim through your dreams, and will have you questioning why more horror films don’t come with so much substance and value.
4.5 stars out of 5
(Photo from Btchflcks.)