A drug dealing teen in Bad Town meets a mysterious young woman with a dark secret.
Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014
After adopting a street cat, Arash (Arash Marandi) goes home to find that his father is high and unable to pay his drug dealer. The dealer, Saeed (Dominic Rains), takes Arash’s car in payment and tears up the town, hiring a prostitute, Atti (Mozhan Marno). Little does he know he’s being watched by a vengeful angel in the form of a girl (Sheila Vand), who wears a chador that flows around her like a cape. The girl watches the people of Bad Town, dispensing her own form of bloody justice when she sees their misdeeds. When Arash comes to confront Saeed, he meets the girl instead; he becomes intrigued by her, and she by him. They become close, but her need for violence and his increasingly desperate behaviour as he struggles to fund his father’s drug habits set them on dangerous paths.
Billed as the first Iranian vampire western, this is a stunningly shot black & white film. It’s a film with an aesthetic so carefully constructed that it almost forms the body of the film. The characters pass through Bad Town like shadows, struggling to survive its injustices. It’s a slow, lingering film with little dialogue, taking its time to establish its visual literacy under a Spaghetti Western-esque soundtrack. It has a lot of images that may become iconic, particularly the image of the girl riding a skateboard down the road in her striped top, her chador flowing around her like Dracula’s cape. The plot is thin, covering some well-worn terrain, but it does so from an outsider’s perspective in a setting that’s very different to what we’re used to. Ana Lily Amirpour meshes genres, references, and themes from a whole range of movies to create something new, and this extends to the interaction between the archetypal characters. The relationship between Arash and his deadbeat dad is an interesting one, and it fuels Arash’s actions without entirely excusing them. The vampire girl, who never gets a name, seems almost compelled to drain the blood of those she sees as immoral. She has a particularly interesting scene with the prostitute where she’s forced to humanise her victims and see what drives them.
Unfortunately, when Arash and the girl are together, that’s when the film is at its weakest. Arash is kind of a bully, and apart from his James Dean styling, it’s hard to see why the girl is so interested in him. He isn’t charismatic or charming, although there is a scene where he’s high when his vulnerability makes him more appealing (and it’s the most natural performance from him in the film). The rest of the time he’s performing, and it’s wearing. Meanwhile, Sheila Vand is able to convey such huge emotions with a glance – curiosity, disdain, anger, profound sadness – that he’s stale opposite her. Faring much better is Dominic Rains, who makes his brief, menacing appearance memorable. The opening of the film is so compelling that it makes the later scenes more frustrating as it loses tension, too; the ending is particularly disappointing. I wish I could have seen the film at the cinema – it was hard for me to focus on Netflix, since it was such a brooding, quiet film (and one with subtitles). For horror fans, you’ll probably find the scares scarce, but it’s still a beautiful, moody, and worthwhile watch.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night on IMDb