This intimidatingly cool take on the vampire genre is a spiky feminist treat
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a lovely title for Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut, wrongfooting us deviously with its aura of shivery nocturnal threat. The point is: she’s the predator, not the prey. Never given a name, and played by Argo actress Sheila Vand, this apparition in a chador, skateboarding along the black-and-white streets of a fictional Iranian backwater called Bad City, turns out to be a vampire. She feeds mainly on those who’ve earned it.
In time, getting back to the less morally picky end of the bloodsucker genre would be a refreshing change. After the Twilight pictures and the various incarnations of Let the Right One In, hanging out with vamps is losing its original chill as a bit of a no-no. They’re becoming all too righteous and restrained.
This one, at least, is a stone-cold counter-culture rebel, and has an insouciant sort of love life: she lets a cool, dreamily quiffed biker punk (Arash Marandi) chat her up. Rather than feeling a major urge to bite his neck - what, no sex drive? - she instead lets him pierce her ears, in Amirpour’s most romantic, tender and role-reversing sequence.
Never fear, though, or rather, do fear: those fangs come out when there’s a horrible guy like Saeed (Dominic Rains) to deal with. He’s a pimp, dealer and tattoed lowlife who abuses his girl, but in attempting to get Vand’s heroine in his clutches too, makes a fatal category error.
Easily the most gruesome scene is the one of his dispatch, a vividly shot and cut rhapsody in bleccch. It’s the dramatic zenith of a film that sometimes feels intimidatingly cool, and too self-consciously downbeat, with a shimmering electro-pop soundtrack that’s so de rigueur it could snap your bones. Your first guess is that Amirpour never met a Jim Jarmusch film she didn’t like, but given that she’s denied this in interviews, it’s must be more a case of accidentally twinned stylebooks: the deadpan glaze never comes off.
Jarmusch’s own gorgeous immersion in the genre for Only Lovers Left Alive had its revenants louchely sprawled amid the bric-a-brac of centuries, rekindling the embers of a deathless romance. Next to that achievement, Amirpour’s spiky feminist bite-back is more of a boutique business, but it bodes very nicely indeed for whatever she serves up next.