As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.
Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, and Bobby Naderi
Directed and written by: Babak Anvari
There are so many things to like about “Under the Shadow” that it’s hard to know where to begin. Lets start with how well the story is set up. The events of the movie take place during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. It’s an important backdrop to the story, and one that’s never forgotten. Every time the audience might forget that there’s a war going on, something happens to bring it right back into the picture.
Dealing with the war is just one of the several obstacles Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her family has to deal with. She’s trying to do better for her family by studying to become a doctor, but she has just been kicked out of school. That stresses her out, and she takes it out on her husband. Things aren’t great for them, and it doesn’t help that he gets sent off to fight in the war. This leaves Shideh to take care of their young daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), by herself in an apartment that’s under constant threat of being bombed.
As real as this situation is, there is horror in the movie in the form of a supernatural presence. Dorsa has a favorite doll that mysteriously disappears. She continually bugs her mother about the doll, as the mother also has something of hers go missing. The two bump heads over the missing items while Dorsa starts to get sick.
It appears the stress of the situation is really getting to Shideh. She thinks she’s having nightmares, but they continue to seem too real. After talking with neighbors, she begins to believe they might be haunted by a Djinn. The scares start rolling, and they really well done. There’s several figures that continue to pop up, and the audience can never get a grasp of what it truly is. What’s most effective about the scare scenes are that there isn't much of the typical build up of sound giving away that a scare is coming.
As expected, all the scares lead to a dramatic showdown between Shideh and the Djinn over Dorsa. Like most of the movie, it’s very tense, and even leaves with a little twist. Even though the movie is in subtitles, it doesn’t take away from the terrific job Narges, and Avin do. They are great in handling the emotions in the regular family setting, and when the scares start happening.
“Under the Shadow” comes on the scene at a perfect time for those horror fans looking for something different. They won’t find many horror movies set during a war, or in the same political and religious atmosphere. The story couldn’t be set up more perfectly, as it draws the audience right in on the struggles of these characters. Once it gets the audience caring, the well executed scares start coming. The acting is great, and the audience won’t be disappointed with the ending. I give it 4 pools of blood.
*Under the Shadows was shown at the PopcornFrights Film Festival