Wednesday, October 11, 2017

#2,441. Ava's Possessions (2015)

Directed By: Jordan Galland

Starring: Louisa Krause, Whitney Able, Deborah Rush

Tag line: "She can handle her spirits"

Trivia: The film had its world premiere on April 26, 2015 at the Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival

This 2015 movie begins where most other possession-themed horror films end: with an exorcism.

A priest (John Ventimiglia), standing at the foot of a bed, is grasping his prayer book, ordering a demon to leave it’s host while the relatives of the possessed girl, whose name is Ava (Louisa Krause), stand in the background, watching silently. Ava, strapped to her bed, is growling and thrashing about as she drifts in and out of consciousness. The entire scene is shot POV, from Ava’s perspective, and moments before the priest finally banishes the evil entity back to hell, Ava (still under demonic control) turns towards a mirror, smiles at her reflection, and says “Hello, gorgeous!

Along with setting up the story, this opening lets us know that writer / director Jordan Ballard’s Ava’s Possessions is going to be as much a comedy as it is a horror film.

Now that the devil inside of her has been vanquished, Ava is ready to get on with her life. But a lot happened during her 28-day possession, most of which she doesn’t remember. For example, as a result of her recent erratic behavior, Ava’s friends are convinced she’s the queen bitch, and want nothing to do with her. Neither does her longtime boyfriend, who apparently dumped her for hooking up with another guy in front of him, and seeing as nobody called her in sick poor Ava is probably unemployed.

What’s more, Ava is in trouble with the law (it seems she did some very bad things while under the influence of that demon), and could be looking at some serious jail time.

Her parents (Deborah Rush and William Sadler) tell Ava she should look at this whole possession episode as a “wake-up call”, while her sister Jillian (Whitney Able) and Jillian’s fiance Roger (Zachary Booth) do their best to support Ava in her time of need. Meanwhile, J.J. Samson (Dan Fogler), the lawyer hired by her parents, tells Ava that, if she wants to stay out of prison, she’ll have to join a support group for the recently possessed, which meets in a local community center once a week and is run by a guy named Tony (Wass Stevens).

But that’s not all; while cleaning her apartment one night, Ava finds a blood stain on her carpet, as well as a man’s watch with a name engraved on it. To try and determine what might have happened (and whose blood it is), she eventually meets up with Ben (Lou Taylor Pucci), an art dealer and the son of the watch’s owner. Alas, Ben has no idea where his father is, nor can he answer any of Ava’s questions.

Then, on top of everything else, the demon that possessed Ava has started coming around again, and is doing everything in its power to “re-enter” her body. Can Eva fight off this evil spirit, or will she once again fall under its spell?

Ava’s Possessions is a clever, sometimes funny look at what happens to the possessed after the demon has been expelled, and features a solid performance by Louisa Krause as the title character, who tries to get on with her life while at the same time realizing nothing will ever be the same again. In addition, the movie has a few laugh out loud moments (most of which come courtesy of the support group Ava joins); a perplexing mystery (To figure out what happened in her living room, Ava is forced to visit some seedy areas of town); and a few legitimate scares (one involving a little girl on a staircase sent a shiver up my spine).

There’s even a scene in which Ava helps Hazel (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), a fellow member of her support group, get back in touch with the demon that once controlled her. Ever since her possession ended, Hazel has felt like something is missing form her life, and is convinced that she and her malevolent spirit were meant to be together. By looking at demonic possession from many different angles, Ava’s Possessions manages to distinguish itself in a subgenre that, in recent years, has been done to death.

Alas, Ava’s Possessions ultimately bites off more than it can chew (along with the comedy and horror, Ava has a brief romantic fling with Ben) and when the end credits roll some of the film’s subplots are left hanging. But as a unique spin on the possession subgenre, Ava’s Possessions has plenty to offer, and is guaranteed to entertain.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#2,440. A Dark Song (2016)

Directed By: Liam Gavin

Starring: Catherine Walker, Steve Oram, Nathan Vos

Tag line: "Not everything can be forgiven"

Trivia: Director Liam Gavin only had 20 days to film inside the house

A Dark Song, the 2016 horror / drama by writer / director Liam Gavin, is in no particular hurry to get around to its more horrific elements, yet I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “slow burn”. That term suggests a movie that is gradually building towards something, which, in a way, this film is; a woman, unable to deal with a tragic event from her past, enlists the help of an occultist to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, all to ask a favor that only Gods or demons could possibly grant her. As you can imagine, the ritual to accomplish this amazing feat is quite involved, and takes months (as well as a decent portion of the movie) to complete.

But from its very first scene, director Gavin infuses the movie with a sense of dread that remains constant throughout. So, even as we’re waiting for its supernatural elements to come into play, A Dark Song still manages to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Sophia Howard (Catherine Walker) is reeling from the death of her only son, and with the help of Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram), a well-respected master of the occult, she is hoping the spirits will allow her to once again speak with her deceased child. Armed with a detailed list of specifications (which Solomon provided), Sophia rents a house in Wales and prepares herself, physically and emotionally, for a ceremony that, if successful, will grant her unusual request.

Despite Solomon’s numerous warnings that the ritual will be long and unpleasant, and that they will be tampering with very dark forces, Sophia remains steadfast in her determination to see it through to the end. But as the weeks drag on, Sophia begins to wonder if Solomon sold her a bill of goods, and is unable to contact the netherworld as promised, while Solomon himself becomes increasingly convinced that Sophia’s true intentions are much more sinister than she’s letting on.

For the majority of its runtime, A Dark Song is a two-person show, and as such a lot was riding on the performances delivered by its stars. Luckily, both were up to the challenge. Walker is excellent as Sophia, the strong-willed woman who nonetheless turns herself over, body and soul, to a man she hardly knows, while Oram is pitch-perfect as the wise but ultimately flawed Solomon (an accomplished master of the dark arts, he is also an alcoholic, something he himself admits could hinder his ability to complete the ritual; and at one point Solomon even lets his sexual urges get the better of him, resulting in what is undoubtedly the movie’s most uncomfortable scene). The love-hate relationship that develops between the two characters proves quite fascinating, giving A Dark Song a dramatic flair you don’t find in many horror films.

In addition, the tonal score composed by Ray Harman helps to build, and then maintain the movie’s ominous mood; and once the ritual is in full-swing, A Dark Song takes a few unexpected, yet ultimately creepy, turns, combining more “traditional” ghostly elements (mysterious voices, doors opening on their own, etc) with some that are quite unique. 

The one issue I had with A Dark Song was its climax. I give writer/director Nevin points for creativity (it’s not a finale you’ll see coming), but when you take into account all that went before it the ending came across as a bit too tidy. 

Fortunately, it’s not enough to ruin what is an otherwise exceptional film, and thanks to the stellar performances delivered by its two leads A Dark Song is one horror movie I’m anxious to check out again in the near future.

Monday, October 9, 2017

#2,439. Under the Shadow (2016)

Directed By: Babak Anvari

Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Tagline: "Fear Will Find You"

Trivia: The film was actually shot in Jordan

I’m definitely a “list” guy. I love movie lists of all kinds, and am especially fond of yearly top 10 lists, where critics and fans alike clue us in as to which films were their favorites of that particular year. Of course, there’s a downside to compiling such a list: odds are you missed a few of the movies released over the previous 12 months, and it’s possible that a film you haven’t seen might have cracked your top 10 had you watched it in time. Such is the case with the 2016 horror flick Under the Shadow. Simply put, it is a tremendous picture, and had I caught up with it there’s no doubt it would have made my Top 10 Horror Films of that year.

In fact, Under the Shadow is so good that it may have filled a spot on my Overall Top-10 as well.

Tehran, 1988. The Iran-Iraq war rages on, and has now reached the city (Iraq pelts the Iranian capital with missiles on an almost daily basis). After being refused a chance to continue her medical training (due to her past political activism), Shideh (Narges Rashidi) slips into the role of a housewife, and when her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) is drafted into the army, she and their daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) find themselves all alone in a spacious apartment (for their safety, Iraj begs his wife to take Dorsa and move in with his family in the country, but the stubborn Shideh refuses to abandon her home).

As the days pass, Dorsa begins to complain that she’s afraid, and doesn’t want to be left alone or sleep in her own bed at night. When Shideh asks her why, the young girl confesses that one of her playmates, the nephew of their landlord, told her that a Djinn, a malevolent spirit that haunts the living, has found its way into their building, and is looking for someone to torment. Shideh tries to calm her daughter’s fears by explaining that ghosts are a myth, but when Dorsa’s favorite doll goes missing, the poor girl is convinced it was taken by the Djinn.

Try as she might, Shideh cannot find the doll, and after a few creepy experiences of her own, she begins to wonder if Dorsa’s Djinn is, in fact, make-believe, or if it is very real.

Over the years, I’ve grown weary of jump scares, especially when they're combined with a dream sequence. Yet writer / director Babak Anvari has managed to incorporate both of these now-tired clichés into Under the Shadow and make them damn effective to boot (I jumped each and every time I was supposed to, and because the film’s overall style remains consistent throughout we’re never quite sure when Shideh is awake and when she is dreaming).

The war also plays an integral part in the story, bringing an added level of tension to what is ultimately a very intense situation. To escape the bombings, the building’s other residents temporarily move away, leaving Shideh and her daughter to fend for themselves (Shideh has promised Dorsa they won’t leave until they’ve found her beloved doll). In addition, one of the film’s most memorable scenes involves an unexploded missile that crashes into the upstairs apartment, leaving a crack in Shideh’s ceiling that takes center stage once the supernatural thrills are in full swing.

Also worth noting is the film’s strong central character (wonderfully portrayed by Narges Rashidi), and when you take into account the setting and the time period in which this tale is set, the fact that the character is female is doubly impressive. I’m not sure if the laws have relaxed over the years, but in the ‘80s all Iranian women were required to wear a chador in public, and after a particularly harrowing encounter with the Djinn, Shideh grabs her daughter and rushes outside, only to be taken into custody by the military and threatened with a whipping (because she didn’t cover her head before leaving the apartment). The Djinn proves to be a formidable foe throughout Under the Shadow, but for progressive-minded women in 1980’s Iran, tradition and law could sometimes be just as frightening.

That said, the most notable aspect of Under the Shadow is undoubtedly the entity that haunts both mother and daughter. Over the course of the film, we do learn a little about the Djinn; according to legend, it moves with the wind, and there’s no telling where it will turn up or who it will bother. Also, Djinns supposedly steal a prized possession from the person or persons they’ve focused their attention on, and until that item is recovered the Djinn will be able to track their victim’s every move (it can follow them to the ends of the earth, if necessary). 

These bits of ghostly trivia aside, we know nothing about the spirit that has settled in Shideh’s apartment building, including what form it will take (mostly seen as a floating chador, it can also resemble people they know) or why it chose Shideh and Dorsa as its prime targets. From start to finish, the Djinn at the center of Under the Shadow remains an enigma, and this makes it all the more terrifying.

As we mentioned in our year-end show on Horror Movie Podcast, some truly excellent horror films were released in 2016, which made compiling a top-10 for that episode a bit of a challenge. Still, I have no doubt I could have found room for Under the Shadow on my list had I seen it in time.

My Overall Top 10, though (which includes all genres), is another matter entirely. 

Right now, The Witch is resting comfortably in the 10 spot on my 2016 list, and while I really enjoyed Under the Shadow, I can’t say with any degree of certainty that I prefer it to director Robert Eggers’ indie sensation. 

One day in the near future, I hope to watch both The Witch and Under the Shadow back-to-back, to decide once and for all which movie will fill that final spot on my 2016 list.

But regardless of which one I ultimately choose, The Witch is an extraordinary motion picture.

And so, for that matter, is Under the Shadow.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

#2,438. Raw (2016)

Directed By: Julia Ducournau

Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella

Tagline: "What are you hungry for?"

Trivia: Supposedly, over 30 people left the cinema when this movie was shown in Sweden. Two people fainted and a few others threw up

It’s been ten years since the release of Inside, and nine since Martyrs hit the scene, but with 2016’s Raw writer / director Julia Ducournau has proven the French still have an “appetite” for the extreme (pun intended… and my apologies).

Justine (Garance Marillier), a lifelong vegetarian, is one of many new students at a prestigious veterinary school, the very institution her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) now attends. At first, Justine, who is incredibly smart and a little shy, has a hard time fitting in; aside from her gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), she hasn’t been able to make any friends. 

Then, during a freshman hazing ritual, Justine is forced to eat a raw rabbit liver. Having never consumed meat before, she has an allergic reaction and breaks out in a nasty rash. But this tiny piece of liver does more than make her itch; it changes her life. All at once, Justine develops a yearning for meat (mostly raw), and it isn’t long before her newfound appetite takes her down a disturbing path.

Is Justine truly a freak of nature (as she believes), or did she come by her bizarre new cravings honestly?

Raw is a visceral genre film of the highest order, a picture drenched in blood and dripping with carnage. But like Inside and Martyrs before it, Raw is much more than the sum of its gore sequences; whereas Inside was ultimately about dealing with loss, and Martyrs presented a search for a higher truth, Raw tells the story of a girl who has found her true self. Having escaped the strict regimen imposed on her by her vegetarian parents, Justine consumes meat for the first time, and it has an overwhelming effect on her.

Suddenly, Justine can’t get enough raw meat, whether human or otherwise (a scene involving a severed finger is arguably the most uncomfortable in the entire film). But it’s more than just the food she now eats. Justine’s personality also evolves; the withdrawn, demure girl who arrived at school gradually disappears, and an outgoing young woman exploring her own sexuality takes her place (Justine even manages to lure the openly gay Adrien into her bed). Eating meat hasn’t just expanded her dietary options; it’s unlocked her true potential, and as we will discover later in the film the cravings Justine now experiences have had a similar effect on others.

Ella Rumpf delivers a solid performance as Alexia, the elder sibling who tries (and more often than not fails) to take Justine under her wing, but it’s Garance Marillier’s turn as Justine, the frightened teenager forced to confront some unpleasant truths about herself, who steals the show. Early on, we sympathize with Justine, a brilliant but reserved student whose experience with raw meat sparks an emotional evolution within, transforming her from a girl into a young woman ready to face the world. Marillier perfectly conveys these two extremes of her character’s personality (introvert and self-confident party girl), and despite her abnormal “appetites” Justine remains, at all times, the film’s most sympathetic character.

Simultaneously savage and unflinching, Raw is guaranteed to give your gag reflex a workout. But it also relates what could very well be the most unique coming-of-age tale ever conceived, and this particular aspect of the movie will, I’m sure, prove every bit as memorable as the moments that will make you turn away in disgust.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#2,437. The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015)

Directed By: Oz Perkins

Starring: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton

Tag line: "Abandoned as a child. Raised by the dark"

Trivia:  When co-star Emma Roberts read the script for the movie, she couldn't sleep afterwards because it scared her so much

We realize early on in The Blackcoat’s Daughter that something terrible is going to happen. From the word “go”, writer / director Osgood Perkins (son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins) fills us with a sense of dread, yet somehow manages to also pique our curiosity; a tragedy is about to rock the girl’s school at the center of this 2015 horror movie, and we are more than willing to sit patiently and watch it play out.

It’s the end of February, which means it is break time for the students at Bramford Academy, an all-girls Catholic boarding school situated in Upstate New York. During the course of the day, most of the young ladies are picked up by their parents, and head home to enjoy their week-long vacation. But when the last car pulls away, it's discovered that Rose (Lucy Boynton) and Kat (Kiernan Shipka) have been left behind.

The headmaster, Mr. Gordon (Peter James Haworth), is unable to contact the girls’ parents, and assumes they are either on their way or got the dates mixed up. So, until their families arrive, Rose and Kat will have to remain at Bramford, where Miss Drake (Heather Tod Mitchell) and Miss Prescott (Elana Krausz), a pair of nuns who reside at the school full-time, will look after them.

But their parents aren’t coming; Rose told her father and mother the wrong date so that she could break the news to her boyfriend Rick (Peter Grey) that she’s pregnant. As for Kat, she had a vivid dream in which her parents were killed in a car accident, and she is convinced they are no longer alive. Fortunately for her, Kat has made a new “friend” at Bramford, an invisible entity that whispers in her ear, possesses her body and her mind, and makes her do some very, very bad things.

Meanwhile, miles away, a girl named Joan (Emma Roberts) climbs off a bus and is soon after approached by the kindly Bill (James Remar), who offers to give her a ride. Bill tells Joan that he and his wife Linda (Lauren Holly) travel to the New York area every year around this time, and he would be more than happy to take her wherever she wants to go. Joan says she is heading to Portsmouth, but to get there the three will have to pass through Bramford…

By following two storylines, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, along with its more horrific elements, proved to be a fairly perplexing mystery. Throughout the movie, we wonder how (and if) these two separate tales are going to intersect, and if Joan is connected in any way to either Kat or Rose. Perkins does eventually fill in some of the blanks (one major twist is revealed a bit earlier than it should have been), but as with any good mystery he doesn’t lay his last card on the table until the very end (and trust me when I tell you, that final surprise is a doozy!)

All three of the film’s young leads are excellent in their respective roles. Though her character remains an enigma through much of the movie, Emma Roberts still manages to make us care about the clearly disturbed Joan (we’re led to believe she’s escaped from a mental facility); and while Lucy Boynton’s Rose starts out as a typical, self-obsessed teenager (ignoring Mr. Gordon’s instructions, she leaves Kat by herself one night to visit her boyfriend), she soon realizes that something is very wrong with her young schoolmate, and becomes genuinely concerned for Kat’s well-being.

The standout performance, however, is delivered by Kiernan Shipka, whose character has made a pact with a demon. We sense in her very first scene that Kat can see things others cannot (while meeting with the school’s resident priest, played by Greg Ellwand, Kat glances out the window and smiles as if acknowledging a friend, despite the fact nobody is there), and her behavior becomes more erratic as the film progresses. 

At times an inquisitive teenager (she is intrigued when Rose repeats a rumor that Miss Drake and Miss Prescott were spotted one evening performing a satanic ritual), Kat is also the most frightening character in the film, a young girl who not only befriended an evil spirit, but happily invited it to take over her body. Though only 15 at the time, Shipka gives a performance in The Blackcoat’s Daughter that would make an actress with 20+ years experience green with envy.

All this, as well as the film's wintry setting (while the weather itself doesn’t figure prominently in the story, there’s a general feeling of isolation that goes hand-in-hand with a snowy landscape), some fine music (provided by Elvis Perkins, Osgood’s brother), and several truly shocking scenes work in unison to make The Blackcoat’s Daughter one of the best horror movies I’ve seen this year.

In fact, I’ll make a prediction: when we finally close the books on 2017, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is going to rank high on my top 10 list. Take it to the bank.

Friday, October 6, 2017

#2,436. Asmodexia (2014)

Directed By: James Rasin

Starring: Candy Darling, Andy Warhol, Holly Woodlawn

AKA: In Peru, the movie's title was changed to Disciples of Evil

Premiere: Premiered at the 2014 Brussels Festival of Fantastic Films

Asmodexia is a movie I happened upon by chance; the trailer for this Spanish horror film is one of several featured on the DVD for Inner Demons and played just before that 2014 movie started. Based on this preview alone, Asmodexia looked like it might offer a different spin on the possession subgenre, and I figured it was worth a watch.

Yet not even the trailer could prepare me for how unique this film truly is, and while I was definitely drawn into the movie and even blown away a little by the various twists and turns its story took, I ultimately admired Asmodexia more than I actually liked it.

Eloy (Lluís Marco) and his granddaughter Alba (Clàudia Pons) travel the countryside, helping those who have been possessed by malevolent spirits (While Eloy is definitely the driving force behind this mission of mercy, It’s Alba who dispels the unwanted entities). The two make their way from village to village, reuniting with many of Eloy’s former followers as they cleanse the possessed, while Ona (Irene Montalà), herself a past disciple of Eloy’s, rots away in a mental institution, where sinister forces have been making their presence known on an almost daily basis.

Eloy believes the sharp increase in supernatural activity (which coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar) signifies the beginning of what he calls a “New Resurrection”, one that is destined to change the world. But as this day of reckoning approaches, Eloy and Alba must confront a select few who have sworn to do everything in their power to prevent the “second coming” from ever happening.

Directed by Marc Carreté, Asmodexia is a movie that demands both your patience and your undivided attention as it pieces its rather complex story together. Soon after the opening sequence, during which a possessed woman gives birth, Asmodexia branches off in a number of different directions; along with Eloy’s and Alba’s exorcisms, the film dedicates a fair portion of its time to Ona and the spirits that have invaded her mental facility; and there’s another subplot involving Ona’s sister Diana (Marta Belmonte), a police inspector who, like Ona, once followed Eloy and is now trying to figure out what is happening, and why.

Each of these storylines unfolds slowly, so much so that by the time the movie reached the one-hour mark I still had more questions than I did answers (a video from several years earlier, which features Eloy, Ona and Diana, is shown at various intervals throughout the film, giving us hope that there is, indeed, a common thread connecting the movie’s characters while at the same time offering very few clues as to what might have transpired between them).

It isn’t until the last 10 minutes or so that Asmodexia finally ties everything together, and the finale definitely took me by surprise. Yet even as I sat there, marveling at how effectively the film had pulled the wool over my eyes, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the journey itself wasn’t as satisfying, and that director Carreté as well as his co-screenwriter Mike Hostench had guarded their secrets a bit too jealously early on, giving us just enough to keep us watching but not nearly enough to make us care about what was going on.

And that, I’m afraid, is how I felt once Asmodexia was over: I was impressed, but I didn’t really give a damn.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#2,435. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Directed By: Ana Lily Amirpour

Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

Tag line: "The first Iranian Vampire Western"

Trivia: Ana Lily Amirpour teamed up with Radco to develop a series of graphic novels to accompany the film

To call director Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night “unique” is an understatement. Though shot in Northern California, the movie is set in Iran (all of the characters speak Farsi), and tells the story of a female vampire (decked out in an Iranian chador) who feeds on the male “undesirables” of Bad Town, an industrial community that, despite being a prime area for oil drilling, is home to some very poor people (the setting gives the film a western vibe, which explains why it has been described by some as an “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western”). What’s more, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was shot in stunning black-and-white, and even features a romantic subplot (involving the vampire).

Oh, and there’s a scene where the chador-dressed vampire rides a skateboard… can’t forget that.

Its unusual qualities aside, however, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an engaging, often moving, and sometimes spooky film about two very lonely people who, though quite different (he is alive, she is undead), fall deeply in love with each other.

Arash (Arash Marandi) is a young, hardworking Iranian landscaper who can’t seem to catch a break. He lives in a desolate area of Bad Town with his heroin-addicted father Hossein (Marshall Manesh), who owes so much money to drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) that poor Arash is forced to surrender his beloved car as payment for his father’s debts. Hoping to get his vehicle back, Arash steals a pair of diamond earrings from Shaydah (Rome Shadanloo), the daughter of the wealthy family that employs him, but when he goes to Saeed’s apartment to swap the earrings for his car he finds Saeed dead on the floor, blood dripping from an open wound in his neck.

Saeed, it turns out, was the latest victim of an attractive female vampire (Sheila Vand) who roams the streets of Bad Town at night, preying on criminals and lowlifes (the vampire marked Saeed for death after watching him physically assault Atti, a prostitute played by Mozhan Marno). 

Sensing an opportunity to make some serious money, Arash steals Saeed’s drug supply and starts selling it himself. At a night club, he even gets to impress Shaydah by giving her a complimentary ecstasy pill. But when she rejects his advances, a sullen Arash leaves the club and, during his long walk home, comes face-to-face with the vampire, who he falls in love with almost instantly. The vampire invites Arash back to her room, but finds she’s unable to turn the lovestruck young man into her next meal because she, too, has developed feelings for him!

In many ways, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is more like an arthouse film than it is a genre flick. Along with its exceptional black and white photography, the movie is deliberately paced; director Amirpour never rushes things, and even throws in a little slow-motion from time to time. The setting is equally as strong, and the often deserted streets of Bad Town perfectly emphasize the loneliness that plagues the film’s various characters. 

The cast also does a fine job, especially Sheila Vand as the vampire, who even when she’s not speaking is saying plenty with her eyes (when alone in her apartment with Arash, she stares for a moment at his exposed neck, and we immediately sense the conflict that is raging inside of her).

As for its more horrific elements, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is, first and foremost, a drama (with a touch of romance), but does feature a handful of frightening scenes (one in particular, where the vampire stalks a young boy played by Milad Eghbali through the darkened streets of Bad Town, is incredibly creepy). 

I also liked how the vampire could conceal her fangs until she absolutely needed them (seeing them “pop out” during the scene with Saeed was arguably the film’s coolest surprise), and throughout the movie we’re never quite sure when and where the vampire will attack, making the film a bit more suspenseful than it might otherwise have been.

In the end, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night may not be as scary as, say, Nosferatu or Salem’s Lot, but it is a wildly original motion picture, and horror fans would be doing themselves a disservice if they passed up a chance to see it.