A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night on Netflix Instant: The Hipster Vampire Movie that’s Better than Jim Jarmusch’s Hipster Vampire Movie

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night best of Netflix instant

Director Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the vampire movie Jim Jarmusch should have made. Or perhaps the one he would have made 30 years ago.

Instead, Jarmusch served us Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)a largely plotless mood piece about self-indulgent hipster vampires; a film that self-indulgent hipster critics saw their transparent, vain reflection in, and heaped with such enigmatic praise as “a meditation.”

Tom Hiddleston Tilda Swinton Only Lovers Left Alive hipsters

“I hope they serve PBR in hell.”

While we’re on the subject, don’t patronize me about how Only Lovers was an allegory to the plight of the aging rockstar, the death of rock and roll, or some other grandiose malarkey. Its attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor about immortals cavorting with dead artists was groan-inducingly pretentious to a Diablo Cody-esque level. (And I don’t see how the fuck Tom HiddlestonAKA morose, bootleg Jared Letowhining nostalgic about the merits of vintage guitars and LPs equates a “thoughtful, atmospheric” film.)

As a former Jarmusch fanMystery Train and Down by Law were at one time two of my favorite moviesmy two cents is that the guy hasn’t made a worthwhile flick since Ghost Dog. But hey, perhaps I just have a softer spot in my heart for the hipsters of yesteryear (Jarmusch’s castings of Tom Waits and John Lurie) than the egocentric shitbags he’s portraying nowadays.

Tom Waits John Lurie Down By Law

John Lurie and Tom Waits in the phenomenal Down By Law—back when being a hipster stood for something!

Oh, and about that other movie…

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
a girl walks home alone at night on netflix streaming

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, A Girl Walks Home at Night, that terrific Iranian vampire flick that feels a lot like those great Jarmusch films of old.

It opens in the fictional town of Bad City, as our brooding, Iranian James Dean of a protagonist Arash (Arash Marandi) steals a cat from a junkyard for no apparent reason. While this occurs, gypsy organ music that sounds like something off Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs plays in the background.

Then there’s the bleak, barren industrial cityscapes that Arash walks through as he puffs cigarettes in his dark shades. We see the recurring image of an open mass grave in a dried up canalan early signifier that rules of modern law and logic are less important to this narrative than the weird we’re about to be immersed in. And with these stylings of offbeat mystery, sinister imagery and grim coolness, the influence of black-and-white Jarmusch classics like Down By Law and Stranger Than Paradise is undeniably apparent from the get-go.

arash cat a girl walks home alone at night corpses

Cool Cats, B.A.D. City

After a bit more of Arash chain-smoking and cruising around in his vintage hotrod, we get a picture of his family life, which is far less hip. Arash’s dad is a feeble junkie, heavily indebted to a slippery goon who looks a bit like a hybrid of Ivan Drago and one of the Taken thugs.
Dominic Rains Hey Girl A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Our last major character (outside of House of Cards‘ Mozhan Marnò as a beautiful prostitute) is, of course, The Girl. Bad City is kind of like an underpopulated Gotham, and The Girl (Sheila Vand) is its vampire bat-woman. She patrols the streets in a black cloak and one of those black-and-white French sailor shirts that hipsters seem to fancy. She also rides a skateboard. Consider her the anti-manic, empowered pixie dream girl.

Sheila Vand Zooey DeSchanel A girl walks home alone at night

Sheila Vand: The Iranian-American answer to Zooey DeSchanel

A large part of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s intrigue is its balance of beautifully bizarre art-house stylings mixed with the type of live-undead romance that worked so charmingly in Let the Right One In (and failed so miserably with those apathetic, narcissistic mopes from Only Lovers). A magically lit scene set to the tune of White Lies’ aptly titled “Death” shows our lonely outcasts basking in the shadows of a disco ball as they come together in the night. Like so much of the film, it blurs the line between dream sequence and traditional narrative, and feels more like something out of Lost in Translation than your typical bloodsucker fest.

Sheila Vand Arash Marandi A girl walks home alone at night white lies death song

Love at first bite.

Then there are the parts of the film that feel more like art-house for art-house’s sake—but that’s really not a bad thing here in less you came looking for Blade 4. A scene halfway through shows the film’s randomly everpresent cowboy drag queen dancing with a balloon in an empty dirt lot. What does it mean? What does it say about the movie? Factually, little. Artfully, it’s one of A Girl Walks Home’s many bizarre and inexplicable gifts to simply take in. Or maybe it’s just a rehashing of American Beauty‘s plastic trash bag scene. You decide.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night drag queen

Stranger than purgatory...

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night leaves us with a few other unsolved riddles. Mainly, what the fuck is the deal with that cat? Still its blend of art-house, horror and romance makes for one of the best additions to Netflix’s recent catalogueand arguably cements it as the best vampire flick since Let the Right One In.

If you want a more traditional vamp story, try Stake Land (also on Instant). If you’re a Jarmusch fan with a dark bent, it doesn’t get much better than this.

IMDb: 7.1
GRADE: B+ / A-

-Sam Adams

A Walk Among the Tombstones: Action-Neeson Strikes Back

A Walk Among the Tombstones Liam Neeson gun

Seemingly out of the blue, Taken rebranded Liam Neeson as the most badass plainspoken vigilante since Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name. Ever since, Neeson’s become the go-to guy for brooding, fearless middle-aged shitckicking heroes with very particular skill sets.

For the most part, it’s worked. Non-Stop (2014, and currently on HBO GO) was a thoroughly entertaining flick about a drunken, remorseful air marshall who goes ape during a hostage situation. It basically played out like a game of transatlantic Clue, while simultaneously mishmashing the plots of Flightplan, Con Air and Snakes On a Plane. If anything, it was further proof that like Segal in his prime, if you give the man a gun and a leather jacket, he can make just about anything entertaining.

snakes on a boat liam neeson non-stop taken

Coming soon from visionary director Luc Besson…

The Grey (currently on Netflix Instant), was another enjoyable brooding Neeson role, and a solid existential survivalist rip-off of Jack London for folks who don’t like readin’ much.

But there was also the forgettable Taken 2, which was basically Taken sans one of the best pieces of action dialogue ever and a criminal lack of throat-punching. Piggybacking that was Taken 3, or Tak3n, most memorable for Forest Whitaker officially throwing in the towel on his acting career as a DMX-channeling police chief who likes playing with rubber bands. (Really, there’s no need to watch either Taken sequel.)

Forest Whitaker Ghost Dog Taken 3

Forest Whitaker in the classic Ghost Dog—back when he still gave a shit.

So look, I know I write about a lot of well-received, artsy European thrillers on here—movies that are far more intelligent and creative than anything in the “Action-Neeson” repertoire—but if you don’t have a soft spot for a grizzled drunken Irishman who plays throat-punching, American super agents without even bothering to forego his brogue, I think you might just be taking things a bit too seriously.

For fans of Action-Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones (out on DVD and available through nefarious interweb means) is easily the best thing since Taken—especially if you like the dark, hellbent vein I tend to tap on this here blog.

The film introduces us to Matt Scudder (Neeson as a grisly bearded, racist drunken detective) amidst a whisky-fueled shootout. Predictably, things go awry, and the next thing we know it’s eight years later and Matt is clean-shaven and holding the podium at an AA meeting.

Liam neeson drunk beard a walk among the tombstones

“We admitted that we were powerless over our accent, and that our beard had become unmanageable.”

If this premise already sounds contrived, that’s because much of this movie’s narrative—based on a book by Lawrence Block—is. You’ve got your prematurely retired, solitary cop/agent who gets to make things right with the ghosts of his past (see: The Equalizer, The Man from Nowhere, Man on Fire). You’ve got the savvy inner-city kid who gives the loner’s life meaning and gets him to awkwardly repeat street slang (Magnolia, Finding Forrester, Half Nelson). And in terms of contrivances, it’s beyond schlocky when a great final shootout scene is tainted by a solemn voiceover of the 12 Steps.

But I don’t think anyone really came to this movie looking to watch the next Chinatown (overrated in my book, anyway… I know, I know, blasphemy).

What we do get is a stormy, Neeson thriller that’s as bleak and unsettling as anything he’s done to date. As Scudder tracks a duo of sadists who kidnap drug dealers’ wives/girlfriends/daughters for ransom money that usually ends in torturous death, Tombstones only builds in its grim hellishness. Aided by pretty much the entire movie being shot at night or in overcast skies, the end product is something like a hybrid of Kiss the Girls and Mystic River.

Drunk Sean Penn Mystic River

“I will find you, I’ll get wicked fahkin’ hammahd, and I’ll throw you in the fahkin rivah.”

Speaking of which, the main thing that sets Tombstones apart from the rest of the Action-Neeson repertoire—and the Bourne Identity blueprint of Taken—is that it bears an uncanny mood and narrative to just about every Dennis Lehane adaptation ever (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, The Drop, etc.). It’s not exactly of the quality of any of the aforementioned films, but it’s also not far from it. And yeah, none of those movies star Liam motherfeckin’ Neeson.

Also, Neeson tries to do something he rarely does—pull off an American accent (and a New York one at that). Or at least I think that’s what he’s going for. It’s unclear. Either way, it provides a few good chuckles, and eventually he just gives up and goes back to fucking people up and delivering sinister threats in his signature brogue. Choice quote: “The girl’s gotta be alive and all in one piece for the deal to happen. Are you listening, motherfucker?”
Liam Neeson authenticious The Town

So is this movie anything more than popcorn? No, not really. But if we’re gonna call it popcorn, this ain’t no microwave Orville Redenbacher shit. This is some primo, truffle-butter kernels popped at one of them leather seat theaters with the $10 beers. In other words, A Walk Among the Tombstones is absolutely everything you could ask for out of a dark, violent, kick-ass Neeson thriller. Look for it, find it, and kill watch it.

IMDb: 6.5

-Sam Adams