Things I’ve learned from horror movies include: Never say anyone’s name into a mirror more than twice. You’re in trouble if that charming old house you bought has an unfinished cellar or attic. Stripes never go out of style when your fingers are made out of knives. And like all respectful dinner party guests, vampires need an invitation to enter your home. If you need a refresher on the latter, this year’s Virginia Film Festival has two movies for you.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a new Iranian film set in a place known only as Bad City with a character known only as The Girl. Early in the film, she—a meek, young woman on a dimly lit sidewalk—is invited up to the apartment of the local drug dealer. Let’s just say that things don’t turn out how he’d hoped. But there’s no revenge in this vampire’s feeding habits, no moral compass in her hunger. She just wants a snack before heading home to listen to post-punk in her bedroom under the glow of a disco ball.
The movie is highly stylized and aesthetically enjoyable. Beautiful black and white cinematography provides a lushness to the bleak setting amid vampire-like oil derricks, sucking the ground dry. The leading man drives a classic car and sports a James Dean ’do. The Girl is cloaked in a traditional chador that flows behind her as she skateboards down empty streets. She never leaves the house without dark lipstick and heavy eye makeup. Each character is an archetype, whether it’s the drug dealer’s track suit or the prostitute’s unrealized life dreams.
Don’t let this scare you off; embrace that this is a genre flick. Characters are used as shorthand to give you more time to revel in this extremely likable vampire movie.
For a more tongue-in-cheek perspective on vampires, What We Do In The Shadows is another festival option. Written and directed by a creative pair that includes “Flight of the Conchords”’Jemaine Clement, this is a vampire movie that pokes fun at genre conventions. Its faux cinéma vérité style (you may prefer the term “mockumentary”) lends a comedic lens to the trials and tribulations of vampire roommates spanning a couple centuries in age. If you like “Flight of the Conchords,” there’s a really good chance you’ll like this. If not, just watch Nosferatu instead.