‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’: Iranians gleam with vampire cool

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For the Sun-Times

There’s not much story to speak of, but the semi-Iranian hipster feminist vampire romance “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is gorgeous to behold and up to its jugular vein in quirky/spooky atmosphere.

It also boasts a handful of images with considerable bite. A justice-dispensing lady vampire riding a skateboard through the mean streets of her crime-ridden city, her jet-black chador billowing behind her like a cape? This sort of thing is why vampires will always be cooler than zombies.

The slow, brooding film is semi-Iranian because, while it features a mostly Iranian cast speaking in Farsi, writer-director Ana Lili Amirpour is Iranian-American and the film was shot outside Bakersfield, California, the setting could be anywhere — anywhere bleak, desolate, urban-industrial and high-contrast black-and-white. And reminiscent of “Eraserhead” and early Jim Jarmusch.

Amirpour takes her time introducing us to the folks who live in Bad City: a drug-dealing pimp (Dominic Rains), a sad prostitute (Mozhan Marno), a bereaved junkie dad (Marshall Manesh of “How I Met Your Mother”) and his handsome young handyman son Arash (Arash Marandi), who drives around town in a ’57 Thunderbird. The pimp causes a lot of unhappiness for everyone, but they all have a bigger problem they’re not aware of for a while. Namely, a lonely vampire known only as The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalking/policing them during the deep hours of night.

The Girl doesn’t have crime-fighting inclinations, though she does tend to select abusive men as her victims. She doesn’t even seem particularly engaged in the vampire business, since she spends the majority of her time shadowing the other characters as they walk the streets. Or dancing moodily to music from her LP collection under the mirrorball in her tiny apartment. She does get her fang on from time to time, though, in highly memorable fashion. Oh yes. The Girl strikes like a rattlesnake.

Even so, “Girl Walks Home Alone” is less a horror movie than a love story that unfolds after The Girl and Arash meet cute while he’s dressed as Dracula after a costume party, and so stoned it doesn’t occur to him to be afraid. They have issues to overcome, of course, since in a cast this small, anyone she kills is likely to have some overlap with the boyfriend.

What’s the use of being in love, though, if you can’t overlook the occasional indiscretion?

[s3r star=3/4]

Kino Lorber presents a film written and directed by Ana Lili Amirpour. In Farsi with English subtitles. Running time: 99 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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