Billed as the first Iranian vampire Western, the debut feature from Ana Lily Amirpour more closely resembles the sensibilities of her adopted Los Angeles: a jumbled collage of borrowed imagery that has little thematic substance but manages to more or less look convincingly cool in the process.
Ostensibly set in Iran, the movie’s fictional “Bad City” could be Anywhere, Pop Culture: a backlot where burnouts, drug dealers and miscreants of every stripe and era, from James Dean-like greasers to Die Antwoord-style gangsters, mingle in fashionably art-directed social decay. They’re the perfect prey for local vampire The Girl (Sheila Vand), the town’s resident bloodsucking vigilante whose vague mission appears to be picking off ne’er do wells and dancing to moody new wave music in her subterranean bedroom.
While clearly evoking the deadpan black-and-white of Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction and Michael Almereyda’s Nadja, Amirpour strikes some memorable images of her own—Vand, cloaked in her hijab and riding a skateboard like a suburban phantom, is a highlight—and sustains an unsettling, if not especially scary atmosphere for spells. What the movie has to say about women in Iran is another question entirely, but as a collection of tumblr-ready stills it’s probably some kind of masterpiece.
Appears in Empire magazine, April 2015.