A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: a worthwhile stroll

girl walks home alone at nightIt doesn’t surprise that director Ana Lily Ampour, a Britain-born Iranian, grew up in the US: this debut feature film is steeped in Western celluloid, to the extent of a laugh-out-loud use of Leone-like soundtrack at one point.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) might be set in Iran, or it might be set in Detroit (based on Ampour’s graphic novel, it was shot in California): its desolate streets and industrial backdrops and urban decay, a single crowded drug-fucked nightclub, bring to mind Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (reviewed here).

The hero (Arash Marandi), or at least the protagonist — it’s hard to find heroism in a drug dealer — is a James Dean lookalike, though this rebel has a cause: to get out of ‘Bad City’, where his father is an addict and his horizon is strictly limited.

Enter the titular heroine (Sheila Vand) — her hajib used to effect in one of the black-and-white flick’s best set pieces, skateboarding down a night-lit street, cloth flying cape-like. There’s a degree of feminist bent to our vampire; also loneliness and likely boredom, enlivened by pop music and the occasional murder.

Part of the joy here is in the interaction: the actors convey much with little conversation; the quiet here is engrossing. The performances of the leads in particular are quite wonderful. Combined with the cinematography, that’s plenty of reason to check this out right there.

The movie lacks the subtext of Lovers, the narrative cohesiveness, but it’s a stylish genre-clash and an affecting movie, well worth visiting for some arty pastiche of east meets west.

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Only Lovers Left Alive: pollution is a real pain in the neck, yeah


only lovers left aliveJim Jarmusch takes the long, slow road to a vampire movie aimed squarely at what happens when you use up resources, but yet, there will still be music.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) features Eve (Tilda Swinton), well read and generally wonderful, reconnecting with her significant other, Adam (Tom Hiddleston). She travels from Tangier, leaving behind good old mate Christopher Marlowe — played with the usual aplomb by John Hurt — to Detroit, where the collapse and abandonment mirrors Adam’s depression. Adam’s a muso of modest but enduring renown, and things are looking all right for the reunited lovers until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up to rock the boat with her over-eager, insatiable consumerism.

Because things are already tense for the children of the night, with the blood supply as tainted as the environment. Resources are getting scarce. The good stuff is in demand. And the food chain, and decency, are such fragile things.

It’s a slow-burner, shot almost doco style as Adam and Eve drive through derelict suburbs, living their lives in splendid and not-so-splendid isolation.

The vampire culture is wonderfully (under)drawn, with its own peccadilloes and gentle in-joke references. Living in the shadows, observers trying to find safe ways to interact, to leave a mark, however anonymously … the settings mirror the desolation, even Tangier — necessarily by night — an empty place where people offer only what is not needed. And the leads capture the mood perfectly. Swinton’s nuanced performance is a delight, and Hiddleston has the disaffected rock star air down pat.

It’s crafty, too, how at least one certain prop never gets to satisfy the Chekhov law, although perhaps that’s a Jarmusch law. Along with the music, of course.

As the predators prowl the decaying streets, the message is there in the coyote howls: nature will have its way, so we’d better look after it.

Neil Jordan’s Byzantium: delicious!

byzantium, vampire movie posterNeil Jordan made Tom Cruise look good in Interview with the Vampire, but Byzantium is even better.

Saoirse Ronan chews up the celluloid as a 16-year-old vampire, on the run with lusty Gemma Arterton, who looks in her period flashbacks as though she just stepped out of a classic Hammer Horror movie (and indeed, there’s a nod to Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness in the film).

Writer Moira Buffini has delivered a script that these two actors totally inhabit, Ronan with subtlety and tender beauty, Arterton a force majeure of hedonistic pragmatism. The familial relationship between the two, of freedom vs control, change vs habit, of nurture and protection, is a joy to watch as Ronan’s Eleanor stretches her 200-year-old adolescent wings.

In the background is the threat of a patriarchal order who don’t like women rocking their boat, with events set in motion by Johnny Lee Miller as bounder and cad, and Sam Riley as an understated hero-figure.

The casting is superb, the sets suitably atmospheric, and there are nods to vampire forerunners in Ruthven and Carmilla. The vampirism here is well drawn and consistent, drawing on a Caribbean version called a soucriant (read more in this excellent New York Times review).

The story is kept simple and is simply told, set to a soundtrack of classical and folk songs, and gorgeously presented by Jordan and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, allowing us to bask in the beauty: to sink in its warmth like Bathory into a bath.

Definitely in my list of the best vampire movies.


A double blast of outback vampires

Jason Nahrung and Lindy Cameron, of Clan Destine Press

Lunch with my publisher 🙂 Pic: Kirstyn McDermott

Blood and Dust is about to become corporeal — and then some.

A little while back, Clan Destine Press publisher Lindy Cameron and I (that’s us to the left!) caught up over lunch and signed off on a contract to put my outback vampire novel Blood and Dust on to shelves, both digital and physical, along with its follow-up, The Big Smoke.

This will be a second life for Blood and Dust, initially released into the wilds as an e-book in late 2012. It was a finalist in both the Aurealis Awards, for best horror novel, and the Australian Shadows. But while it’s pretty much self-contained, Kevin the mechanic, now vampire, still had some work to do once the dust had settled out west. Hence, his journey to ‘the Big Smoke’.

I’m ecstatic that these two books, coming more than 15 years after the story was first conceived, are finally coming to life in paperback as well as digital. My dad might even get to read them!

Clan Destine has good people operating it, a solid stable of fellow writers, many of whom I already know. It’s a real pleasure to join them on this latest adventure.

So when will Kevin get to escape the garage on his own grand adventure? Well, Blood and Dust is getting new duco, and The Big Smoke is going in for its roadworthy. So all in good time, my friends, but rest assured, you’ll hear the motors revving!

Blood and Dust on the digital horizon aka Kevin the vampire lives!

blood and dust by jason nahrung

This is the cover for Blood and Dust, my outback vampire novel coming soonish to digital shelves everywhere thanks to Aussie publisher Xoum. I quite like it! (Honestly, the art dept has fkn nailed it, yeah?)

The cat has kind of slipped out of the bag on this one, but it’s nice to be able to share the horror joy. The story’s more than 10 years and four major iterations in the making, and for those who know — this is the story of Kevin, the vampire. And yes, the Monaro is still there …

You might have also noticed recently another lurvly book cover hitting the interwebs:

perfections by kirstyn mcdermott

Why yes, I have read an unedited version of this novel by Kirstyn McDermott, and yes, it is very good. Coming soonish, too!