by Wren Awry
“In ‘Bluebeard’, as in cinematic horror,” Maria Tatar writes, “We have not only a killer that is propelled by cinematic rage, but also the abject victims of his serial murders, as well as a ‘final girl’ who either saves herself or arranges her own rescue.” You can find this “final girl” trope in film noir classics and tacky slasher films alike; it is a staple of the horror genre.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is different. Instead of being a final girl, Amirpour’s punkish protagonist (called, simply, The Girl), is a vampire who doles out vigilante justice to bad men. She is, in a way, an anti-Bluebeard.
The Girl stalks the streets of Bad City, a sparse Iranian ghost town made up of a handful of residents, an abandoned power plant, and a ravine where dead bodies are thrown. The town’s powerful pimp, Saeed, is The Girl’s first on-screen victim: she watches Saeed cheat and assault sex worker Atti. When Saeed invites The Girl to his home and attempts to seduce her, she kills him.
The Girl’s other victims are also men that mistreat Atti, including heroin addict Hossein, who forces Atti to shoot up with him. The Girl—watching through the eyes of her avatar, a cat—enters Atti’s bedroom and kills Hossein. While Bluebeard lures young girls in to his home, the Girl trespasses into forbidden chambers—Saeed’s gated house, Hossein’s heroin-infused dream world—to do away with them.
The Girl doesn’t just kill, she also warns. She asks a little boy, skateboarding alone at night, if he is good. When he answers, “Yes,” she calls him a liar. Threatens him. Tells him she will be watching him. Don’t grow up to be a shitty dude, The Girl seems to be saying, And I won’t have to drink your blood.
There’s one good boy in the film, and she let’s him live. He’s Arash, Hossein’s son and The Girl’s brooding, dutiful, leather-jacketed love interest. He’s a sort of “final boy,” but he, too, mixes up what’s expected of him. At the end of the film, after Arash realizes that the Girl murdered his father and that she could easily murder him, he skips town with her anyway.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” isn’t riffing on “Bluebeard” directly. But it’s playing with the tropes of horror films, and by subverting cinematic horror, the film turns “Bluebeard” on its head in profound and chilling ways.
Wren Awry studies Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Their creative nonfiction has been published in Loom Art Zine, and they occasionally write criticism for the Anarcho-Geek Review.
 Tatar, Maria. “Bluebeard.” The Classic Fairy Tales: Texts, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999. 140. Print.