Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 23: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s most marketable draw is that it bills itself as “the first Iranian vampire Western.” One could even arguably add “romance” to its multi-sided surface. And they say nothing’s original anymore.
But the film is much more than its potentially gimmicky promise. It hits upon the main tenets of each genre’s hallmarks but never overdoes any of them. Instead, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a black-and-white portrayal of loneliness, evil impulses, and both high and low culture in a fictional, Iranian ghost town, aptly named Bad City.
The titular Girl of the film is a mostly likable anti-hero whose downside we only see when she gives into her natural, vampiric impulses against the innocent. Sure, sometimes it’s a deserving character (someone we’ll describe in a bit), but sometimes they’re just for sustenance. Sometimes it’s just as a warning, such as when she intimidates an innocent young boy and takes a skateboard he leaves behind in the moment of fear during a particularly harrowing moment of horror. (She also has a particular knack for 80s pop music, as her bedroom shows.) She eventually seems to fall for the other main character, Arash, a struggling gardener and strapping young lad whose widowed father is a debilitating heroin addict who’s practically in love with a long-time prostitute, who herself seems to psychologically grapple with her life choices.
There’s a few antagonists in the movie whose traits are emphasized a bit on the nose, but at least we know where they stand. Early in the movie, we’re introduced to The Bad Guy: Saeed, a fundamentally dickheaded pimp and drug dealer. Just in case the viewer wasn’t getting douche chills when he tries to impress one of his sex workers with his new classic car, or pumps some iron in front of The Girl with similar intentions, Saeed’s chestpiece tattoo that simply reads “SEX” drives the point home pretty bluntly.
Director Ana Lily Amirpour paints this industrial community as a thinly populated and dry one, where prostitution and drug use run rampant and there isn’t much to do unless you’re rich, an addict, or both. The shots of mechanized equipment are an apt contrast to the few humans that seem to occupy the town. She also gives the flow of the movie an eerily quiet, dreadful and scorched-earth atmosphere that’s wholly effective. Save for some of Arash’s storylines, it’s tense and makes the fleeting moments of actual horror (essentially when The Girl is intimidating or attacking) that much better.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’s most enriching trait might be that it doesn’t shove the horror or vampire elements in the viewer’s face. It tackles all sorts of other ideas (dependency, gender roles, internal conflicts and maybe even existentialism) and still leaves room for the harsh flashes of gore and violence. It’s an original blend of thought and malice, and it’s far more than the shtick hybrid of classic film styles one might expect.