Nothing quite says Happy Halloween like a spaghetti western set in Iran featuring a hijab-wearing vampire and a kick-ass soundtrack. Director Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut is a work of striking confidence and imagination. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night rings of the stuff of David Lynch and Harmony Korine, yet all the weirdness works to open the way for sonorous (and somehow gentle) emotion. Even if you’re allergic to zombies and vampires, this black-and-white gem isn’t one to hold a cross to. Moreover, it’s pretty much perfect that it’s screening Halloween night at the Walker Art Center.
The movie takes place in Bad City, a ghost town full of drug addicts and dead bodies. A nameless, taciturn vampire (Sheila Vand) haunts the streets, her hijab holding her frame like a sinister shadow. With a sharp sense of morality and even sharper teeth, she feeds on those who terrorize the vulnerable. Yet, when she’s not spooking around in the shadows, she sits alone in her apartment, playing pop records. On her walls are posters of Madonna, Michael Jackson. Her ghostly-white face often takes the shape, when lit, of stoic loneliness, even when she cruises the streets on a stolen skateboard.
Meanwhile, across the city, there’s the leather-jacket-and-aviators Arash (Arash Marandi) who’s basically got a heart of gold, as well as a father who’s a hopeless junky. Our vampire comes across Arash after he’s left a costume party, goofily high on ecstasy, and dressed, of course, as a Dracula. Despite the overwhelming silence between the two vampires, intimacy stirs. Amirpour makes this happen, chiefly, with closeness and music. “Death” by White Lies plays during long, long, long shots as the two slowly flow into each other, like an eclipse. Although the film has its sexual moments and tendencies — a favorite image is fingers in mouths — the romance that alights here isn’t steamy but simple: two beings, music and a sparkling galaxy created by a spinning disco ball.
It could be argued that Amirpour relies too heavily on music, that A Girl is like a string of music videos connected by bits of narrative. But that’s a little too cynical way to look at it. Besides themes of love and connection, Amirpour’s film also hints at the influence of oil in global culture, juxtaposing images of a vampire feasting and oil rigs ceaselessly sucking on the earth. There’s also a focus on vice, whether it be drugs, sex, money, or even music. Still, these things come across underneath all the style that A Girl has in almost annoying abundance. And the central feeling — the main takeaway — is the joy of intimacy, the hope of connection between two people in the most unfortunate of places.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is playing at the Walker Art Center. It screens Halloween night at 7:30 p.m.