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From Under A Rock: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

October 29, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
8.8
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From Under A Rock: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  

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Picks for this column tend to fall in two categories; a well-known film that the other person hasn’t seen, or a personal favorite we are sharing with the other. But some picks are movies that flew under the radar that we want to give more publicity. This Persian-language vampire film falls into that category.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael brought Aaron to the Village of the Damned. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Released: November 21, 2014 (Wide Release)
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring:
Sheila Vand as The Girl
Arash Marandi as Arash
Marshall Manesh as Hossein
Dominic Rains as Saeed
Mozhan Marnò as Atti

Aaron Hubbard: Vampires are a subgenre of horror that I really enjoy, and this one was feels fresh and bold. I have watched it twice this year and I’m really enjoying getting to know it.

Michael Ornelas: And it’s actually one of my least favorite subgenres of horror, despite my relative lack of experience with watching them. I love Let the Right One In though, and this one totally surpassed my expectations. Maybe I need to reevaluate how I feel about vampire movies. Maybe a Twilight marathon is in order to give them a chance?
Fangs
Beware of Fangs
Aaron: Vampires have been a metaphor for sexual desire and the fear of it for for a long time, basically since Dracula became ubiquitous in pop culture. A vampire seduces its victim with its mesmerizing gaze and then forcibly takes what it wants, causing irreparable harm to the victim. It doesn’t take much analysis to figure out what’s at play here; vampires are a warning against the supposed dangers of sexual temptation. Usually the vampire is a male and the victims are female, and while I don’t adhere to the kind of sexually frustrating nonsense that leads to films like Twilight, I do consider vampires a solid metaphor for sexual predators and the need to defend against them. This film takes a different approach by using vampirism to empower a woman to punish men who take advantage of women. And I love it for that.

Michael: I loved that aspect of the film as well. The Girl was easily the best part of this pretty unique and interesting film. I nicknamed her the “Vigilampire” because I’m corny as hell, and you can’t. Teach. That.

How you doin’?

Anyways, I’m a guy who has seen maybe enough vampire films to count on my hands. And this one felt the least traditional, in a good way. The way The Girl glided around on a skateboard brought back memories of The Babadook. The way she formed a truly heartwarming relationship with Arash reminded me of Let the Right One In. This movie only reminded me of good things, and yet felt original all on its own. I loved every kill because it felt justified. So much about this movie worked really well, so I’m glad I watched it.

Aaron: I hate how much I love the word “Vigilampire”. Somebody should make a movie of that. But anyway, the film has received a lot of praise as a feminist piece, and I certainly enjoy it from that point of view. While the vampire killing abusive men and scaring the hell out of the little kid speak for themselves, one of the things I found interesting on this viewing was how Arash interacted with women. While he is no saint in other aspects of his life, he is polite, considerate and seems to know how to make a move without being pushy or threatening. It made it a lot easier for me to buy that The Girl would learn to trust him, even to do something potentially harmful like piercing her ears. It’s a cool look at both sides of the picture.
Scene
Setting the Scene
Michael: I actually want to talk about “setting the scene” in two different ways here. First off, the cinematography was stellar. The lighting, the creative shots…all of it, really, was a visual treat.

But there’s also the literal setting of this film in Iran, which actually brought to light some stereotypes I personally have about that part of the world. Nothing derogatory or anything, I just felt the film was much more modern than a lot of the media would lead you to believe for the Middle East. I actually really appreciated the feminist approach in this movie, specifically when it’s set in a region that has a less-than-pleasant reputation for its treatment of women (I don’t actually know if that’s true of Iran — unfortunately, a lot of the Middle East runs together for me and I’m not informed enough to distinguish between which countries have been progressive and which have not).

Aaron: I don’t think you’re alone there, and I certainly can’t claim to be an expert. But it is eerie how much this film felt like it could have taken place in my hometown. Honestly, if it weren’t for the language difference, the black and white color palette and the vampire, it would be hard to distinguish this from a film about an American city. Realizing the similarity in the two cultures is shocking; not only does it make you realize they are more advanced than Americans might expect, but maybe we are more barbaric than we would think. Though, that’s more of a generalization, and if anyone has more insight to offer, I think we’d both welcome that.

Michael: You hit the nail on the head: this felt so close to home. Movies like this are important because I feel our world is in a constant state of “othering” each other right now, and watching a story like this unfold in a completely different culture that feels almost identical to my own (barring the women wearing hijabs) really brings us closer together. We’re all human, after all. Well, some are vampires, but you get the gist. But I have to say that I was actually expecting to be bored by this movie because of the setting being too unrelatable to me. There’s egg on my face after watching it, and in a way, it has made me a little bit better of a person, willing to acknowledge my own biases and preconceived notions.
Disparity
Disparate Storylines
Aaron: Have you ever watched a movie and felt like things were just a little too nicely arranged? Like the plot was meticulously crafted to go a certain way because that’s how stories are told? I think we feel that all the time. One thing that stuck out to me about this film was the sense of unpredictability. This time, I think I sorted out why the film is so effective at this; Arash and The Girl have separate stories that don’t really connect with each other until they meet by chance. Each feels like they could be the main character of a different movie, and then they start interacting with each other.

Michael: Yeah, it’s a nice structure that is well balanced. It never feels overdone in one direction or the other. I think it shows that in a way, we’re all intertwined, but yeah…it never feels forced. It actually felt like every character had their own thing going on and no one was really dependant upon anyone else. Arash’s father would have ended up the same way with or without Arash. The drug dealer at the beginning was intertwined with him and The Girl, and it all played together so organically. It’s a really smart script, and I may borrow some things from this when I tackle writing some features next year.

Aaron: I think you should review a vampire as a vigilante.

Michael: I mean…isn’t that reviewing this movie is? Just look below and you’ll see my rating (Hint: it passes).

Ratings:
Aaron: My appreciation for this went up quite a bit on the second viewing. It’s fun to look at, the story is well told and feels fresh, and it’s overall just a well put-together movie.

A-

Michael: Another week, another movie with the letter grade I’ve given below. I feel this movie achieves at a high enough level for me to consider it in an upper echelon of cinematic artistry, but it’s not great enough to be a perfect rating or an all-time contender amongst my favorite films. The camerawork and lighting are beautiful, the story’s message (and main character who embodies it) are strong, but the pace was a bit slow for me. I did appreciate that the movie never spoonfed me anything; it allowed me some time to catch up to what it was putting out there, and it’s much more rewarding that way. Anyways, this was a great recommendation from Aaron, and I suggest you all check it out if you’re fine with foreign-language films and/or black and white films.

A-

Aaron: It’s hard to argue this film doesn’t have pacing issues, but it does encourage the viewer to pay attention.

Michael: Which they’re already forced to do because they’re reading subtitles!

What are your favorite vampire movies?

Next week:

Michael: Well it’s election season, so I’ve been saving this one for the special occasion…
Idiocracy
Aaron: Have we become that column that tries to be topical? I think we have.

Michael: Too bad we can’t figure out how to be clickbaity as well.

How accurate is Mike Judge’s look at the future?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Michael’s Still Doing His Web Series!
Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews a house plant as a Halloween costume.

Just watch it. It’s great..

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 600 films. I will steadily be adding reviews for them as well as creating various lists that anonymous internet commenters can vehemently disagree with!

8.8
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
This film is fresh, bold and unlike almost anything else you will watch. If you aren't fond of arthouse films or foreign language movies, you will need to stretch your wings a bit, but we think this one is well worth seeing. It's a different kind of vampire movie and it's available on Netflix if you want to give it a try.
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