This movie was called “the first Iranian vampire western”, even though it was shot in Taft, California. It’s all about a lonesome vampire in the Iranian ghost town known as Bad City. It’s also a Tarantino combination of influences, in black and white, that will either make you say, “Wow, that’s art” or “Huh, that’s self-indulgent tripe.”
Arash works hard to take care of his heroin-addled father. He’s proud of his car until it’s taken by his father’s dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains channeling Ninja from Die Antwoord). Our hero — such as it is, no one is really all that heroic here — tries to protect the modesty of Shaydah, the wealthy young woman he works for, but still steals her earrings.
As for Saeed, his interlude with one of his girls is cut short by The Girl (Sheila Vand), a vampire who soon kills him. Arash comes to the dealer’s home to get his car back, finds him dead and takes his money and drugs. Now, he can stop working so hard and get everything he wants. That doesn’t happen — he can’t even win over Shaydah, who rejects him.
He goes into the night high on Ecstasy and encounters The Girl. She takes him to her place, where they listen to music. The next night, he pierces her ears and gives her the stolen earrings.
Meanwhile, our hero’s dad is a mess, thinking that a cat is his dead wife. With all of the dealer’s money and drugs, he forces a prostitute to get high with him, which marks him as evil in The Girl’s eyes. She kills him and the prostitute helps her dispose of the body.
Arash soon learns that The Girl was behind his father’s death, but they still leave town together, even after he pulls over to the side of the road, leaving him unsure of what to do next.
This was the first feature for Ana Lily Amirpour, who was born in England, grew up in Florida and went to school in California. She was hailed as the new Tarantino as this film released, but the follow-up, The Bad Batch (which she described as “Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink with a dope soundtrack” and “El Topo meets Dirty Dancing“) didn’t do so well. She’s working on another movie called Blood Moon, which is “”a mind-bending adventure set in the humid, neon-lit streets of New Orleans. Inspired by adventure films of the 1980s and ’90s, Blood Moon follows a young girl with special abilities. After escaping from an asylum, she enters back into the chaotic reality around her, making unexpected allies along the way.”
This is a movie with a spaghetti western soundtrack while referencing David Lynch and having a skateboarding vampire. Honestly, it’s really well made. Almost painterly. But it left me cold, with long stretches of absolutely no action. In fact, it’s a rather cold film.
Maybe it’s because it has it’s heart in the world of the art film. There’s a thin line between exploitation trash and celebrated cinema — it just depends where the movie is playing. It just feels like someone standing in front of your art class and trying to amaze you because they just read some philosophy books for the first time and want to wow you with how their painting really means something, man.