Vampire movies have always evoked something in human curiosity. From Nosferatu, to Anne Rice’s homo-erotic romps with New Orleans-based vamps, to yes, even the domestic abuse disguised as a twinkle love story with sparkle Robert Pattison, Twilight, vampires are consistently reappearing in our imaginations.
Maybe it’s the moodiness, the darkness — subversive anti-heroes that allow us to access a certain type of eroticism that is all too taboo. The aspect of control or losing control, of appetite. Anne Stiles, a professor of English literature at Washington State University and authority on Bram Stoker and similar Victorian literature that deals with vampires told NBC that vampires continue to appeal because: “The sexual undercurrents are not hard to see. You have penetration, an exchange of bodily fluids.” Even Edward Cullen, sparkle vampire, not withstanding much raised criticism? “He has mesmeric powers. He is very seductive. It’s an easy, veiled way to write about sex without censorship.”
So, the vampire may have become a bit softer, a bit more for the Twi-hard. But what if there was a vampire out there, a woman who took no mercy and lived out her nights in black eyeliner, Joy Division-style t-shirts, and Madonna posters. What if, once in public, that woman had to cloak as per the laws of her country, a cloak that was said to maintain her purity in the eyes of men and god, a cloak, that literally becomes a symbol of death?
From the description:
The first Iranian Vampire Western ever made, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, the film’s airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic combines the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.
Even the title itself reads like a bad fairy tale/straight from the headlines of the thing that women are culturally forbidden to do. A girl who walks home at night is a target, is asking for it, is putting herself straight in the clutches of all the terror and violence that can be brought upon a woman, and yet it is that same terror and violence done to women that instead gets put back onto the victim.
A girl who walks home at night is empowered, someone who is not reduced to their femaleness as fear.
Even more so as the film strays from the atypical stereotypes of “cloaked women” who need to be rescued from the said oppression of hijabs, veils, Islam, and other browsed upon, but never really examined, miseries. The main character, a woman whose name is not known, but whose presence is anything but that of “oppressed.” She wanders the streets with little fear and a raving appetite, her hijab evoking some Halloween-like creature, even at one point, hopping on a skateboard and letting her hijab flow in the wind, half suburban skate kid, half The Dark Knight Returns. The woman preys on the less savory men of her home Bad City, where actual ghosts live among the ghosts of vice — junkies, prostitutes, men with a taste for violence and picking on women and maybe, also just preys. It’s what society tends to fear most — female hunger — whether sexual, the act of taking up space, or just reaching for that last piece of food.
We fear hungry women.
“I didn’t want her to talk,” Amirpour told Sundance’s David Shear in an interview last February, “… it seemed to me she was much more a force of nature. And then once the layers were peeled back on her, she became, a still great character, a different kind of character. So I think the first time it’s a meld of she has enough of humanity to try to seek justice, but once she knows she’s gonna kill someone, she’ll just let the animal take over.”
Vampires are cultural outsiders, creatures pushed to the edges of proper society. They defy gender politics in general, even more so if that gender politic, especially the female body politic, is based in Iran. It’s at once visually striking, weird, and all sexy misanthropic, a woman who doesn’t need to say much at all, but ends up saying everything we really need. In a world of vampires that encourage a certain culturally condoned “sexiness,” a borderline abusive relationship, and just plain old boringness, A Girl Walks Home at Night hasn’t even hit theaters yet and is already proving that it’s willing to go beyond the status quo. And like her swaying cloak in the pitch blackness of her evening, coasting without a care or fear of being a woman in an isolated space all by herself, A Girl Walks Home At Night is much like The Dark Knight: not the hero we deserved, but the hero we need.