18 – 2014 – 96mins
LITTLE RED BITING HOOD
A slowly-paced black and white horror, spoken in Urdu, with a mouthful of a title which does little to explain or enthuse, and featuring characters as unsavoury and unrelatable as junkies, thieves, pimps and prostitutes – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night does NOT make things easy for itself to be accepted by the mainstream film-watcher! But Ana Lily Amirpour’s monochrome vampire romance excels in standing apart from the crowd.
Set in the aptly named Bad City in Iran, the Girl of the title is a quiet, hooded loner who stalks the seedy streets of this criminal underworld, picking off the immoral and taunting the innocent. Homely actor Sheila Vand (pictured) does not a terrifying or intimidating monster make, but Amirpour’s stark visuals and sparse soundtrack, combined with the surreal and disquieting atmosphere, makes for a creepy, spectral viewing experience which stays with you.
Watching the girl mutely mirror heroin addict Hossein (Marshall Manesh) from across an empty road, or shadow a young street urchin before inexplicably appearing ahead of him are simple yet strange and deliciously uncomfortable notions. They shouldn’t work, particularly not when modern audiences are so accustomed to the excessive gore and brutality of recent horror fare, but they do. And effectively.
The crawling, uncomplicated narrative sees tide-fighting young man Arash (Arash Marandi) fall for the bewitching blood-sucker, as her compassion for a living meal grows. Not a great deal is spoken, but the emotions portrayed – even while the mismatched pair are simply listening to a record or using a paperclip to pierce her ears – speak volumes, and you always get the lurking impression that something sinister and unpredictable might happen at any moment.
Given the subject matter and genre, there are predictable shades of recent foreign language vampire romance Let The Right One In, but AGWHAaN is also very much its own beast – confident, powerful and iconic despite its stripped back, reduced scale and restraint; I’ll definitely return for a second bite and heartily recommend even hardened subtitle-phobes take a walk with this captivating Girl.