I love vampires. They have always been the movie monster that frightened me the most. As a kid I would read anything by Bruce Coville, and his short story Vampire For Hire gave me nightmares for weeks. That time Mr. Burns was a vampire in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror? That gave me nightmares too. I read Dracula for the first time when I was 14 and it is still one of my favourite horror novels.
If you are in anyway in tune with vampires in pop culture, however, you will have note a shift in tone over the years. They seem more likely to appear in a romance book or film these days than in horror. Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula felt the need to inject romance between Mina Harker and the creeper Dracula, seemingly trying to keep the vampire as a metaphor for sexual assault while trying to eat their romance cake too. No, Twilight is not responsible for the romanticizing of vampires, Anne Rice and many romance novelists have certainly beaten Meyer to the punch. For most of my vampire loving life, it was always a gamble as to whether I was getting a romance (which I generally do not care for) or a horror. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night surprised me as a wonderful balance of both.
The film was written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and was promoted as an Iranian vampire Western. There are certainly Western elements to the film, but I saw it more as the continuation of the vampire romance. I would say it is far more like Let The Right One In than Twilight, however. The nameless vampire girl is a killer, and doesn’t have a whole lot of moral qualms about it. Like Eli, she is a stoic figure who has more or less made peace with what she is. She is not totally heartless, however, and when a man named Arash starts to fall for her, she warns him. She has done bad things, and she needs to stay away from him. Arash himself is a sympathetic character, but he does start selling drugs to support his heroin addicted father and tries to break out of poverty. Arash does seem much younger and naive than the girl, but it is easy to see how they reflect each other; the girl as a supernatural being that must prey on others, and Arash as someone who has to deal drugs to get ahead in life.
The romance really works for me. The girl is a predator, but she does not prey on Arash like Edward does to Bella. I liked Let The Right One In, but the pedophilia in the book and implied in the films still makes Eli’s relationships with others feel extremely predatory in one way or another. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night puts both vampire and mortal lover on equal footing. I also really adore the girl’s relationship with Atti, a sex worker. I’ve watched enough horror films to expect that the sex worker would be one of the first to die, but to my surprise the girl actually just wants to help Atti. When Atti is scammed by her pimp, the girl kills him and takes some of his valuables. She later gives them to Atti, who is naturally freaked out by the girl. This film passes the Bechdel test as the girl and Atti confide more in each other than they do with any of the men in the film.
I think this is a film that will please both kinds of fans of vampires. If you like them as monsters, the girl is unequivocally a killer. If you like them as romance heros, the girl is torn in her relationship with Arash, and both ultimately must come to terms with her nature for the relationship to succeed. I give this film two fangs elongated in bloodthirsty anticipation!