A skateboarding blood-sucker, a killer romance – Ana Lily Amirpour’s refreshing flick takes a bite out of usual horror tropes
Slicing and dicing movie genres like some psychotic cinephile on peyote, it’s safe to say that you haven’t seen anything similar to Iranian-American filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It's a vampire-Spaghetti-Western hybrid set in fictional Iranian outpost Bad City, a Lynchian dreamworld rendered in inky monochrome and hitched to a fiercely eclectic rock 'n' roll soundtrack. Got all that? The kick is that, rather than be overwhelmed by its stylistic influences, Amirpour’s feature debut synergizes them and has been winning over audiences worldwide since its Sundance premiere last year.
Seemingly destined to work in horror-with-a-twist since she made a slumber party massacre movie aged 12, the buzz on A Girl… means that Amirpour is already on to her second feature, The Bad Batch – “a dystopian love story in a cannibal wasteland” – with Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey. We caught up with the intense, charmingly frank 25-year-old before Bad Batch was announced, on her whistle-stop London visit just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, which she naturally referenced as An American Werewolf in London’s denouement “where the werewolf cut loose”. Given that she was more interested in discussing David Lynch and her gruesome childhood pastimes rather than her movie, the werewolf’s not the only creature of the night to do so…
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT WAS INSPIRED BY RUMBLE FISH
“In the very beginning there were three films that I was looking at and referencing: Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish (1983), which has such a surreal, stylized world and the black and white also separates reality in a way. I don’t like black and white movies, I have a reflex reaction, like, I’m going to take my medicine, so it’s really weird that my film looks like that. But I always just saw it that way, she’s this black graphic kind of shape.
And the other films were Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in the West (1968) and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990). I think I’ll probably be referencing it in every movie that I make. Bobby Peru is, like, the coolest gangster of all time…”
ANA LILY AMIRPOUR IS A DAVID LYNCH SUPERFAN
“He’s a wonderful man and mind and creator. Wild At Heart is my favourite of his movies, and I don’t love all of his movies without exception. But I love his mind. It’s like being inside a dream. I want to feel what he’s going to look for in his brain caves…”
AMIRPOUR ONLY GOT MULHOLLAND DR. ON HER 23RD VIEWING
“It was the weirdest thing. I was in film school and people were always talking about it. I’d seen it, like, 22 times but I couldn’t remember it – just a few scenes, like the audition scene, the lesbian scene and the homeless guy behind the dumpster… Then the 23rd time, the night before we did ecstasy and all the people I was with fell asleep, but I couldn't sleep. I was in that weird seratonin-depleted dark weird state. It was 8am and Mulholland Dr. (2001) was about to start, so I put it on. And it starts with this green and pink animation at the beginning – it was crazy, I didn’t remember that and I’d seen it 22 times! There’s always stuff to discover in his films.”
HER LOVE OF HORROR STARTED AT AN EARLY AGE
“I had this over-exposure to horror from when I was seven years old. My father is a surgeon, so when I was young, I went to the operating theatre and watched him cut open this giant black man’s leg. It was like a tree trunk and they were pulling the fat out. So after that I would catch frogs in this swamp ravine across the road from our house. I’d pin them down to a piece of cardboard, and then their tongue comes out really long and I’d and cut them open from here to here with my dad’s scalpel. My dad thought I was going to be a surgeon – ha ha the trick’s on you! Then when I was 12, I shot a slasher film. I’d get through, like, three horror films a night at the weekend. Everything from Carrie, Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all the Freddie Kruegers and Jasons…”
SHE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT WEEDING OUT HARDCORE GENRE FANS
“I can’t watch those films now. It switched when I was hitting puberty and got into boys. Then I moved on to romance, like Dirty Dancing! So now, a film like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, it’s almost like the perfect fusion of both. Hardcore horror-genre people, they fucking hate my movie, they think it’s so arty and emo and slow. They want some carnage.”
“When I was 12, I shot a slasher film. I’d get through, like, three horror films a night at the weekend: Carrie, Poltergeist, all the Freddie Kruegers and Jasons” – Ana Lily Amirpour
MAINSTREAM HOLLYWOOD CAN GTFO
“They say I’m too extreme. Actually, I think that’s in my favour because if you’re more in the mainstream, they always want to advise you. They were just castrating every idea I had. They wanted to take the sex scenes out of certain scripts, less this, more that, change the age... They think in pie charts and percentages and numbers. You can’t anticipate the whims of what’s out there, you just have to believe what you’re saying.
I think there’s a big renaissance happening in a lot of independent film because of genre. All those Hollywood agents and companies are dumb and they hear the word ‘genre’ and they dumbly think it’s an easy way to make money. And really, genre’s the way for all of us to make something a little fantastical.”
A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night is out in cinemas Friday