Tag Archives: vampire

Don’t read this post about an awesome vampire movie

Just a girl out for a walk. Nothing to see here.

Just a girl out for a walk. Nothing to see here.

“You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting.” – The Girl

Wow. … OK, maybe that wasn’t emphatic enough. WOW! It’s not often I watch a movie, and I think, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Sure, my teaser to this post drops a number of movie references, all of which seem justified. The pimp looks like he has purchased his living room decor from the Kohl’s Tony Montana collection. When The Girl is shown walking the dark, quiet streets of Bad City clad in her chador, she appears like Death from Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal … or possibly Death from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which featured a Death that was, in turn, and homage to the Bergman classic. Girl has its own unique, dark humor, which made me think of Tim Burton, especially when The Girl herself (Sheila Vand) has the big, black, expressive eyes, narrow face and haunting paleness of a Beatlejuice/Edward Scissorhands-era Winona Ryder. And Arash, in his white t-shirt and jeans, driving his classic Ford coupe, is the Iranian image of James Dean from his signature role in Rebel Without a Cause.

But this film is so much more than the sum of its references. Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour, who based the movie on her own graphic novel, has created a surreal parallel universe in Bad City, a bleak, lower-middle class city that is bordered by oil rigs that never stop pumping. Her characters adhere to archetypes making them familiar, yet each character is unique enough to stand on his or her own. Amirpour walks a constant tightrope, balancing between the stories she is trying to reference and the stories she is trying to tell. And she nails it.

Which brings me to Quentin Tarantino. That’s precisely what makes Tarantino compelling, his ability to re-invent genres using a mix of disparate references and his own perverse ingenuity to make something familiar yet not. So when Federale kicked in with Sarcophagus during A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, while many reviewers thought “Spaghetti Western,” I thought of Tarantino’s similar references in Kill Bill rather than the old cowboy flicks themselves. The song was a seamless fit, an envisioning of a unique moment that managed to be grounded in similar movie moments decades before Girl was developed.

Tarantino’s gift has resulted in some amazing cinema over the decades. I can’t wait to see where Amirpour goes with her talent.

I love the soundtrack. Again, this is something that sets A Girl Who Walks Alone At Night apart. It’s not the latest pop music, or tunes that sound sort of like the latest pop music. It’s not a period piece weighed down by its over-played hits. It is a mix of genres and languages. The music supports and enhances the images and the emotion, never cloying, saturating the film to the point of over-doing it.

The cat. The fucking cat. Heh.

Arash is a rebel, and he'll never, ever be any good.

Arash is a rebel, and he’ll never, ever be any good.

Thematically, the quote this piece leads with says it all. The pimp needs for nothing, yet really wants for nothing, either. He goes and does his job every day, to the best of his ability, just like a banker or garbage man. He is joyless in his routine. The prostitute clearly has wanted for more, at one point, saving to achieve that goal. But the goal is now lost in the darkness, in the moments with ugly, violent men with their clutching and demanding. She is just a hamster on a wheel, saving and saving, but saving for nothing, saving for the sake of saving, because that is what she does, what she’s always done. Arash’s dad Hossein is a junkie, torn apart by the death of his wife. He exists simply to exist, because he doesn’t have the guts to move on with his life, and he doesn’t quite have what it takes to end it all. The Girl herself is the prime example of this, a creature that lives forever solely to feed. She has only her sad pop music and the never-ending hunger to occupy her infinity, no hope for anything else to break the endless monotony of her existence. Even the endless pumping of oil on the outskirts of Bad City is no longer about want, just black blood filling a thirsty, endless addiction.

This is what sets Arash apart from his fellow Bad City residents. He wants. He worked to buy the cherry classic car that he desired and now loves so dearly. He wants to be noticed by the rich girl whose yard he tends, wants to dance with her, kiss her, feel her. He wants to break out of Bad City, get beyond his pathetic life that is all he knows. He wants to know the Girl, who to him is a fleeting image of freedom, an enigmatic darkness from which springs hope for something new and exciting. His desire, his want is what drives the film and what makes him so appealing to the Girl and makes him such a sympathetic character to the audience.

And that, folks, is the long and the short of why you should give this awesome vampire film a chance. I hope you enjoy it is much as I did.

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Where are my beautiful, brooding, glittery vampires?

The body count starts at 200.

The body count starts at 200.

If Guillermo del Toro was involved in a live-action film that pitted the horses of My Little Pony vs. the fruity friends of Strawberry Shortcake, I would watch it. The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II, Mimic and what I consider to be one of the best flicks of the past decade, Pan’s Labyrinth, are all the reasons I need to tune in.

(AHEAD BE SPOILERS)

But if that resume wasn’t enough, having read the first book of The Strain series would have pushed me all in, as well. I love the idea of treating vampirism as a virus/biological threat, elevating CDC scientists and pest exterminators to hero status, and a true, well-planned, violent takeover of the planet by the forces of darkness. The book moves quickly and clinically, a terrific mix of science and superstition.

It doesn’t look like the show will stick 100% to the books, however. It’s been a few months, so maybe I’ve forgotten (if anybody remembers, please mention it in the comments), but I don’t remember Sean Astin’s character from the first novel. That said, there are always going to be changes from page to screen (see The Walking Dead). If it’s handled well, if you don’t lose too much or fail to keep the spirit of the written enterprise, it shouldn’t hurt the show.

One disappointing moment of bad science: 200 people dead on an airplane from something toxic, whether it’s chemical, biological, whatever. As coroner, you’re in the morgue with all 200 of these bodies. Do you go casually eating in the workplace or use half-assed safety gear? No, you frigging don’t. And that’s what he deserved to be eaten by vampires. Supernatural Darwinism. Or maybe just karma for the stupid and lazy.

But that one irksome lapse is in the minority. If the FX series premiere is any indication, what worked on the page is going to work just as well on screen. The show moves quickly and easily, building suspense and delivering scares. The cast works – Mia Maestro seemed a bit under-used, but it’s the pilot so I preach patience – it’s well written and looks fabulous. The book has great breadth, both in story and characters, and early on it seems that the producers understand how to make that translate to the screen. The full-on vampires are used sparingly in the premiere, and our “Big Bad” vamp we’ve seen but not completely, just enough to tease and raise cause for serious concern as to his motives and what he will do to accomplish them. The slow build is definitely the way to go, and the minds behind The Strain get it.

So I guess I’ll just have to go find my pretty, self-involved, glittery creatures of the night elsewhere. The dude abides …

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