APRIL 14 — A keen interest of mine is spotting horror movies which add new ingredients to the already "full" melting pot of horror.
Hence, you can probably guess that Blair Witch Project back in 1999 and Paranormal Activity in 2007 were pivotal moments for me. Those films were game changers.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (AGWHAAN) is obviously not such a film as far as trendsetting is concerned. There was no slew of copycat films when it first came out nor will there be in the near future. But it did add something new to the horror mix — the noir element — and it did so quite seamlessly.
This film was on limited release in the UK and that is why it flew under my horror radar (which is quite keen even if I do say so myself!). There was not even much marketing for its DVD release which I found was readily available and very reasonably priced!
It was certainly not to everyone’s taste, unlike Conjuring or Sinister but as I said above, it added that new dimension to the genre.
This film is meant to take place in a small town (called "Bad Town") in Iran although it was shot in sunny California. I congratulated myself for noticing something American about the setting!
The atmosphere depicts a sense of loneliness, isolation and destitution. This is what probably made the horror so palpable.
There was little or no CGI to speak of and nor, in my opinion, should CGI be used gratuitously in such films. AGWHAAN’s effects were minimal but they were more than enough to creep you out.
AGWHAAN’s protagonist is Arash, a young man who is trying to negotiate his way through life. Although he seeks the finer things, he also takes his filial responsibilities seriously.
He looks after his ailing father Hossain who, despite his ailment, still suffers from drug addiction and has a habit of visiting prostitutes. Due to the debts Hossain racks up, Arash had to give up his vintage car to the drug dealer, Saeed, who also deals in prostitution.
One such prostitute is Atti who is trying hard to get out of the game. Also in this lurid interplay, we find a young boy who seems to be without parents and is by himself at odd hours in the day.
This is where the vampire comes in. She looks to be the quintessentially religious Iranian woman but that is simply her disguise. She rarely speaks but her beauty and allure is more than sufficient to entice her victims.
I did not see her as being particularly malicious and her nature as a vampire does not prevent her from having moments of human-ness. Her scare factor comes from her unpredictability.
I found myself clutching my covers praying that she would be merciful only because I knew it was possible.
Many folks reading this will not remember the TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Salem’s Lot, from 1979. It was a low budget production and the effects were so atrocious that one might find it hilarious today.
However, there was a feeling of being trapped as the town descended into the pit of evil. That helplessness is what I found most prominent about AGWHAAN.
Its characters were simply trying make their way in an environment which was not conducive to life. It felt as if "Bad City" was repressive and its citizenry were looking for temporary escapes.
Remembering the fact that this movie is set in contemporary Iran where there is little freedom, one tends to sympathise with the characters’ need for their temporary release.
This is gorgeously depicted in the noir-ness of the cinematography. That is why, when the vampire comes for them, we actually care.
All in all, I would highly recommend AGWHAAN to any serious fan of the horror genre.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.