This is a great first feature for director Ana Lily Amirpour. It has all the elements you want from a director straight out of art school. Haunting, beautiful, random, thoughful.
Unfortunately I have already seen “The Bad Batch”, this director’s second feature, which is in my hot list of top 20 worst movies I have ever seen…but maybe that’s better. It would have been so disappointing to see this great first feature and be excited for what great thing was going to come next.
The rule of thirds sits at the head of the table in this movie, and it gives me a photography erection the whole time.
I love the black and white choice for this one. It fits the mood and sits on the actors’ faces wonderfully. Not afraid to use grays, but keeps the black black. White is never blown out and never directs the eye far from the meat.
The opening sequence is my favorite part of the film, but sadly the feeling of the opening sequence also doesn’t quite make it all the way through the rest of the movie. That first shot of hot Iranian James Dean picking up a kitty kat on the streets of some oil rig town with French style Cafe music and a few Dutch angles to show you that you’re in a skewed world. Loved it.
The idea for the setting was great. Some fake iranian city called “Bad City”, where even with only a hand full of actors in the whole runtime, gives you a feeling that this town is their Gotham. Run rampant with crime, death, and debauchery.
It feels like it could have been filmed in the late 70s, especially with the fun nod to the music and style of a spaghetti western.
The Girl, played by Sheila Vand, was excellent. She had a soft look and an empty stare that felt innocent and mysterious. The idea of her stalking through the city in a chador cape riding a skateboard is an image that will stick with me in a great way. I love that she took something that signifies woman oppression, wore it as a symbol of strength, and rode around on what would generally be seen as a 14 year old boy’s transportation, to kill bad people, particularly men, with her vampiric prowess.
I would say the drug dealer was so cliché, but I have absolutely met many a drug dealer exactly like him. It’s a feeling, an ego that they feel they must have that comes with the need of having peoples lives in their hands, the lower they are on the food chain the more pompous. Makes for a great first kill, everyone wants this guy dead.
I had no idea where it was gonna take the vampire aspect. Giant fangs, shark mouth, subtle sexy suck? It was an adequate reveal, although the driveling drug dealer instead of an angry one seemed a touch too simple (and less rewarding)
The scene with the street rat boy stands out as excellent because of the horror elements without the need for death or blood.
I wish we had gotten a little more in the way of dialogue, even if it was trite philosophical mumbo jumbo about the meaning of nothing. The style over substance issue could have been fixed with a few well placed short conversations.
The last act lost the wonder of this weird spaghetti western, James Dean bad boy, foreign horror concept and decided to drone into dramatic love territory, without any love or expression of love. I do like that it kept everything muted and quiet, and didn’t give up and go for a punch in the gut near the end, but it seemed like it lost its voice a little as it went. Maybe a shave of 10-15 minutes?
There were some great transitions, one that stuck out was a zoom focus from tree branches to the industrial cityscape.
I didn’t realize until the credits that this was an American film, filmed in Bakersfield, CA…I know that shouldn’t matter…but it kind of does. While I was watching this I was thinking of how empowering this is and how hard this must have been to make in Iran. I was shaking my fist at the man with them. Learning this diminished that a bit. It’s still amazing for being a first time PoC woman director making a black and white horror with an all Iranian cast and language..that’s insane and awesome…but also, took the gusto out of it a bit finding out it wasn’t actually a foreign made film.
I enjoyed this one. It was slow and moody and very well directed. Minus a few dragging pieces here and there, I’d say this is one of the cooler vampire movies I’ve seen since “Let The Right One In”. Definitely recommend.