SpectreWatch | ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ and Our Magical Moments
SpectreWatch is where writer Justin Drabek discusses SpectreVision’s horror filmography, the impact it has had on him, and the cultural relevance of the company’s commitment to making outsider art for the screen. Each film carries a unique tone, and yet, as SpectreVision continues to produce more films, there seems to be a common thread that carries throughout the work they choose to release.
The first time I saw A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will forever be etched in my mind. I was working at a record store in Portland, OR, and passed by a second-run theater every time I would walk to and from the shop. I had been desperately trying to find a theater that was showing the film but, despite how great Portland is, sometimes finding a place showing the right things you want to see is surprisingly difficult. After a very diligent search, however, I finally found one. The magic I felt for the movie began even before I went in. Like a precursor for what was to come, I was walking alone down the sidewalk surrounded by nothing; for this brief moment in time, there were no cars (that I can recall) or anyone else in the world, except a rat.
The rat was in the middle of the street playing with a tiny stick. But then, what appears tiny to humans would, I assume, be quite the challenge for a rat. As I walked closer the rat did not move or budge, just kept on playing with the stick, pushing it back and forth, until eventually, I was close enough that the rat stopped and looked at me. It made a squeaking sort of noise, and then picked up the stick and got on its hind legs and seemed to offer it to me. I stood there for a bit and just stared for what felt like ages but was actually seconds. The rat seemed to be waiting for me to take the stick from it, so I bent down and grabbed it from the rat’s hand. With that, the rat made a noise of what sounded like joy and then ran off. I held the stick for a good while, wondering if this had any cosmic meaning or significance, as I often do during any day. I looked at the stick a little while longer and then decided to place it back on the sidewalk and continue my walk toward the theater. I was thinking first and foremost about how I needed to wash my hands upon arrival.
This interaction with the rat stuck with me throughout my entire first viewing of Girl. I felt a connection to the opening sequence with the cat and, though there is no clear throughline with it, I just loved how the first scenes of this film were so centric on an experience of a human and animal. Maybe if we just slow down and listen and look at the world around us, perhaps we will see the magic there, even if it doesn’t always make sense.
There is something incredible about SpectreVision’s choice for their second production to be a film that is spoken entirely in Farsi and filmed entirely in black and white. The release of this film was a step forward for the company; it marked them as cultivators of outsider art in film and culture.
A lot is said about Girl in terms of its context as an Iranian spaghetti western vampire film. Some have issues with it not being filmed in Iran or focusing too much on the spaghetti western aspect of it but, to me, the film is about lost souls trying to find their purpose in life and escape Bad City to begin their lives they were meant to lead. Sure, the Girl is a vampire who kills bad men, and she may have found her purpose at the moment by surviving on the blood of the wicked. Yet, there is a sense of loss and struggle in every frame and every moment. Bad City seems like a bad place, and the Farsi language creates a barrier that makes it feel distant from viewers, but it’s our city, and all of the problems are our own. In the darkest corners of every town, these are our struggles: the drugs, the abuse, the misogyny, the bad people…they all exist in our world. But the quiet, happy moments are ours as well: the dancing to music alone, spending time with a cat, the exploration of love, and finding a connection with someone who may or may not be good for you. In this way, I think Girl being filmed in Bakersfield, California was an intentional move. We all live in Bad City, but there can be a lot of good — it’s up to us to continue down the path of betterment.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is one of my favorite films and writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour is one of my favorite filmmakers. There is just something that connects me to her work. Every time I hear an interview with her, something clicks in my brain, and it all makes sense. It’s a weird feeling and one that her films do just as well. It’s a communication between strangers through the lens of worlds created by someone who I feel I intrinsically understand. Of course, that is not possible; as much as we know or are impacted by another person’s words and images, we are still inherently only going to have our own experiences. The sense of connection between the power of art and the magic of cinema means that, much like I will never know what the rat who handed me a stick was thinking, I will never know what every moment in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night really means outside of what it means to me. And that, my friends, is all that matters.
The best part is, what I get out of this film is probably completely different from the strangers sitting next to me, or the ones discovering this film at home. The commonalities and themes are meant to be discussed and explored, yet it’s about our own journey. In some ways, we are all the girl who walks home alone at night. 🩸
Justin Drabek is a contributing writer for Manor Vellum. He also writes for Horror Obsessive and formerly for Killer Horror Critic. He loves cats, and dogs seem to like him…he’s not so sure about them. Follow him on Twitter @Justin_Drabek.
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