Sometimes a movie can intrigue based solely on descriptors used when people talk about it. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is summed up as “the first Iranian vampire western;” it is made by a woman, and it is also shot in black and white, and it is also a sexy romance. Also also rock and roll. So, naturally, I eagerly awaited its release, and finally finally caught a showing at Coolidge Corner, in their ultra-tiny screening room that seats 14 people, and lo, it was good. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, the film follows the goings-on of a small, sad town called Bad City, whose denizens are lost and lonely, whose streets harbor a silent killer, a vampire who stalks repugnant men.
Ah, October, a month when talking obsessively about slashers, vampires, haunted houses, killer aliens, werewolves, and dismemberment is generally socially condoned. I have been enormously enjoying my own spooky season, an extension of my personal exploration of horror over the past year. Though I’ve seen many new-to-me horror films recently, it has been especially heartening to check out a few titles written and/or directed by women, which aren’t exactly common. Two of my favorites so far are the lycanthropy-as-metaphor-for-puberty drama Ginger Snaps, written by Karen Walton, and the body-mod gorefest American Mary, written and directed by the Soska Sisters.
Diagnosed with a debilitating heart condition in her childhood, 22-year-old Chantaly does not leave her house much. Her mother died in childbirth, and her doting father raised her as best he could, but she has always felt the absence of a mother in her life. As an adult she lives quietly, running a small laundry service from their home with the help of her cousin, and playing with her adorable dog Moo. She starts experiencing visual and aural disturbances that might be her dead mother’s ghost, or might be a hallucinatory side-effect of her heart medication. Chanthaly becomes convinced her mother is trying to reach her, trying to tell her the truth about her death, and she gradually comes to distrust and resent her well-meaning but overprotective father.
When quiet, respectable anthropologist Dr Hess Green (Duane Jones) takes on a new assistant, George Meda (Bill Gun), he unwittingly changes the course of their lives. Though amiable and talkative, Meda is neurotic and suicidal, and prone to violent moods. One night, he accidentally attacks Green, stabbing him with an ancient dagger taken from the (fictional) Mythrian tribe. Meda soon after kills himself, while Green is left cursed with a hunger for blood and apparent immortality. Fearful of persecution (he’s the only black person in his wealthy neighborhood), he hides Meda’s body and claims his assistant ran away. But when Meda’s long-suffering wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark) shows up looking for him, Green’s secrets can’t help but tumble out.
After a display of cowardice that accidentally lands him a promotion and a medal during the Mexican-American War, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is assigned to an isolated military outpost in the rugged mountains of northern California. His fellow soldiers are all outcasts- inept, drunk, and/or wild- so he resigns himself to a quiet life of seclusion while he continues to process his battlefield trauma. One night, a half-crazed man named Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) wanders into their fort with a story of his traveling party stranded in the mountains at the mercy of a cannibalistic colonel. Boyd and his commanding officer, Colonel Hart (Jeffrey Jones), lead a small party to the cave where Colqhoun says he and the others were forced to eat fallen men to stay alive during a prolonged storm.