When you've seen one Iranian arthouse vampire Western, you've seen 'em all. Well, maybe not, but as of tonight I've definitely seen one. Ana Lily Amirpour wrote and directed (as well as playing a brief supporting role in) this remarkable film, which got quite a bit of attention when it was released a year ago. It is an unusually good modern vampire flick, not least because it shuns all but the bare bones of the lore. No sparkling here, no tedious backstory stuff, just a creature of the night with familiar appetites and the strength to fulfil them.
Sheila Vand stars as 'The Girl'. We first see her stalking the streets of Bad City, a gritty industrial conurbation. There are frequent shots of an Iranian oilfield (producing life blood of a different order), trains roar by in the night, and rich folk take party drugs while poorer junkies mainline heroin. The city's all-too familiar disparities of wealth leads to the customary infestation of crime, here represented by a brutish pimp, well-played by Dominic Rains. He is the first victim of The Girl, and his death leads to an accidental encounter between the fanged killer and Arash (Arash Marandi) a downtrodden young man trying to support his addict father.
What follows is a simple but involving plot in which problematic romance blossoms between the well-matched pair (they both like Lionel Ritchie, so clearly it was meant to be). There is some excellent cat acting by a moggy that steals every scene she(?) is in. There's even some well-judged humour; Arash's second encounter with The Girl takes place as he staggers home from a costume party, off his face and dressed as Dracula. She just happens to be going by on her skateboard while wearing the nun-like garb of conservative Iranian womanhood. The fact that these crazy kids get it together is oddly uplifting.
There are touches of the Western and the road movie about A Girl, especially in the soundtrack and the final scenes. This intelligent genre mashup deserves the praise it's received, I think. I only hope we see more horror movies this good springing up in unexpected places.