Crash Analysis: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

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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.)

6 Replies to “Crash Analysis: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)”

  1. Great review. I’ve had this one on my Netflix queue for a while now (available Apr. 21st). Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    Bill, I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but do you feel like we’re going through something of a ‘horror renaissance’ over the past few years? You don’t necessarily see it at the box office, but indie horror has really yielded some fantastic stuff over the past 5-6 years. I mean look at the stuff that’s either out there recently or upcoming: SPRING, THE WITCH, THE BABADOOK, THE BATTERY, BANSHEE CHAPTER, IT FOLLOWS etc… I feel as though horror is finally breaking free of the narrative constraints that held it back as a genre through the nineties and 2000s. It’s much more imaginative and alive. In spirit it’s a lot like the 80s, where horror just shook loose and really unleashed some great stuff (by the way, when are you doing a show on 80s horror? You ought to.)

    1. Randy, I’m so with you about the “Horror Renaissance”. Independent cinema – when it rocks – shatters the mold as well as expectations.

      An 80’s horror show is a fantastic idea!

      PS: I wanted to write much more about A GIRL WALKS HOME AT NIGHT, but I didn’t want to spoil a damn thing. For instance, the ending is loaded with much thematic substance to play with. ENJOY!

  2. I loved this movie! (and of course the cat). It was so refreshing to see a movie subvert the usual horror movie trope of punishing women and cats for sticking up for themselves. I was sold after the prostitute meets the girl. The actor who played the pimp was at the opening I attended. Haha he did his best to assure the concerned dudes in the audience that this was indeed not a “feminist or political movie”. We left before he finished answering questions.

    1. Oh, man! That was cool. Refreshing indeed. I truly enjoyed every aspect of it. I never thought it was feminist or political, just strong, flawed characters in an unpleasant environment.

  3. Just got my copy of this. Cant wait. Totally stoked to watch it and have heard so much good praise. Great review, Billy! Nice work, man. Glad that horror flicks are becoming more significant and rewarding to watch these days. It Follows, The Babadook and now this film! I think it’s very cool.

    1. I am so with you, Vic. I hope Hollywood will learn the lesson that remakes aren’t worth it. Please let me know what you think of this film when you. Be well, and thanks for the comments!

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