A Feminist Fright Fest and Iranian Vampire Western in One.
By Claire L. Smith
One would think that vampires are a trope in horror that has been beaten to death with a clove of garlic. However, Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” not only breathes live into this overdone trope but also gives the classic monster a feminist twist that is both innovative and empowering. Style-wise, the film filled to the brim with moody, cinematography which contributes greatly to the dark, tense vibe that consumes the narrative in a “Sin-City” (2005) meets “Cat People” (1942) vibe.
Described as the ‘first Iranian Vampire Western’, the film (written and directed by Amirpour) follows a lonely vampire that roams Bad City, a crime-filled ghost town whose residences are unaware that a bloodthirsty beast lives among them. However, the vampire known only as ‘The Girl’ (Sheila Vand) is certainly not the only monster that lurks in the shadows.
Possibly the most interesting and refreshing aspect of this film is Amirpour’s take on the modern vampire. In the past, women in vampire narratives take up one or occasionally. They are either the innocent victim that is ravished by the male vampire or a woman that is victimised punished for her sexuality by being turned into a vampire. Possibly the two original versions of these character types can be found in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” with characters Nina and Lucy taking up respective roles. Amirpour, however, creates a new trope of the female vampire, one that defies stereotypes within the vampire genre and gender roles.
The Girl is powerful in her sexuality and is in clear control of how, when and why she uses it. She wears feminine make up, glides around Bad City on a skateboard, she is undeniably sexual yet she wears a chādor with traditionally ‘boyish’ clothing. The Girl does not fit into any pre-existing stereotype of a sexual woman and instead of being a victim of her sexuality, she uses it as a weapon.
“Possibly the most interesting and refreshing aspect of this film is Amirpour’s take on the modern vampire. In the past, women in vampire narratives take up one or occasionally. They are either the innocent victim that is ravished by the male vampire or a woman that is victimised punished for her sexuality by being turned into a vampire.”
The film goes about empowering its female characters in various ways with The Girl slaughtering the cruel male characters that take advantage of the female characters. Again, The Girl uses her sexuality and bloodlust as an advantage – a complete table-turn in comparison to other female characters in vampire flicks.
She also uses it to empower other women, especially women who are not as powerful as her. For example, she helps Atti, who is reliant on sex work to survive in the city and mistreated by the men who surround her, regain owed funds. She does this despite having no obligation to Atti, sending a perfectly positive message of the importance of supporting other women as well as yourself.
Amirpour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is as innovative and symbolic as it is eerie and tense. The feminist themes are there for an audience to appreciate yet they do not smother the deeply disturbing horror themes that make this film so unique. Full of vivid and dark imagery, the film holds well in both style and substance that allures both horror fans and feminists alike.