Ana Lily Amirpour is a horror film director to be on the lookout for. Armed with a film style all of her own, her first feature film, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is something straight out of a Bram Stoker book. Hitting theaters in 2014, #AGirlWalksHomeAloneAtNight is an extraordinary film that pays homage to vampire classics. Set in an Iranian ghost-town known as Bad City, from the opening sequence it is clear that this film is something unique. As the tagline of the movie implies, it is in a genre never before seen. WARNING: Spoilers for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night to follow.
The film's cinematography and editing take it above and beyond, making it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This is only fitting, as the motif of scopophilia is interwoven throughout the film. Finally, it expertly plays to a Barbara Creed article entitled “Horror and The Monstrous-Feminine,” as The Girl embodies Barbara Creed's ideas to perfection.
A Genre Of Its Own
Although the official genre of this film is listed as “Drama, Fantasy, Horror” the tagline of: “The First Iranian Vampire Western” seems more fitting. The setting itself seems like an old American western — the constant imagery of oil rigs pumping and the dirt landscape is reminiscent of a traditional western.
It is accurate to say that this movie also fits the classical conventions of a #horror film as well. The parallels with Dracula (1931) are a main theme throughout the film, not only with The Girl’s set of fangs extending, but also her style and the almost ironic scene where Arash dresses up as Dracula for a costume party. Not only is this film paying homage to a classic, it is following the rules that were set in place with precision. This is almost refreshing; in current horror films so much new lore is added to the vampire storyline that it is nice to see a film really go back to the roots.
This film is elegant. The cinematography was done in a way that really brings a viewer to the landscape; the black and white allows a viewer to travel to Bad City and feel like they are in a place that has not yet been brought to the 21st century. This, along with the editing and camera angles give way to verisimilitude throughout the film.
The scenes where Hossein is struggling with his addiction are so striking; the quick cuts along with the fast frames (as if in fast-forward) allow viewers to enter the chaotic mind of a junkie. There is also an incredible scene where Saeed takes The Girl home to seduce her, believing he is in charge of the situation. Though, it is clear from the camera angles and cleverly placed animal heads that he is not.
The cuts from a low camera angle of The Girl to the high camera angle focused on Saeed indicates that The Girl is the dominant one in this situation. Before this point in the film, Saeed has been the aggressive male figure, always getting what he wants. The mise-en-scène here permits The Girl's dominance to be strengthened even further thanks to the angles focusing on Saeed — they all feature an animal of prey placed in the corner. Additionally, The Girl's face looks distorted when the camera focuses on her, alerting viewers of the real demon inside of her.
The cinematography also allows for the motif of scopohilia to shine through the film. This idea that The Girl “will always be watching” is persistent; she watches her prey before she goes in for the kill. It is also mimicked in the eyes of the cat; the close-up camera angles on the cat's eye remind us of this, as well as when Hossein yells at the cat for doing exactly that: looking. There are also similarities between The Girl and the cat in that cats watch their prey before they strike, just like vampires.
Relation To Horror Literature
Barbara Creed is known for her article "Horror and The Monstrous-Feminine," in which she uses psychoanalysis and feminist film theory to break down certain aspects of horror film. Utilizing the previous ideas of Julia Kristeva, Creed explores the representations of women in horror.
Most notably, The Girl directly alludes to Barbara Creed’s idea of the monstrous-feminine. Not only is she a women who lives by exposing her human meat, she is also literally a vampire, an ancient figure of horror. This film allows the monstrous-feminine to be brought into full light, where the typical monster movies have the vampire or werewolf being played by a male, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, makes the crucial switch to a female playing this role and fully personifies the monstrous-feminine.
Give Ana Lily Amirpour A Chance
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an incredible film that uses filmmaking techniques to truly allow its beauty to be the main focus. Although not one of the “typical” horror films coming out today, the fact that this film dared to be different is outstanding. The cinematography works like a well-oiled machine, if you will, and allows the film to truly be a work of art.
Do you like Ana Lily Amirpour's odd film style? Do you think she did the vampire genre justice?