UNDER THE SHADOW
- RELEASE DATE: In Theaters October 7th
- WRITTEN BY: Babak Anvari
- DIRECTED BY: Babak Anvari
- STARRING: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
UNDER THE SHADOW is the story of Shideh; a woman in 1988 war-torn Tehran who has to care for her young daughter, Dorsa, alone when her husband is sent off to battle. As the days progress; our heroine is ill at ease in her surroundings; an individualist (represented partially by scenes of her exercising to a Jane Fonda workout tape playing on a forbidden technology; a VCR) and mother forced to huddle in a basement with the other occupants of her apartment building as bombs fall around her.
As anxieties grow, due in equal parts to the war raging around her, and her inability to realize the career of her dreams like her doctor husband; things begin to take a turn for the preternatural as an orphaned boy taken in by the building’s landlords begins filling Dorsa with terrifying thoughts even though he is mute. Before long Shideh’s downstairs neighbor begins relating tales of evil spirits called Djinn; creatures borne on the wind to places of anxiety and terror. As the occupants of the apartment building begin evacuating, Shideh steadfastly stays her course; and as her isolation begins to grow her relationship with Dorsa becomes strained and we are left wondering if she is being truly haunted…or are the events surrounding her causing her to become unhinged?
UNDER THE SHADOW is one of the most effective fright flicks I’ve seen in a damn sight. Due to really getting to know Shideh and her universe before things begin to slide into monstrous mayhem we become firmly invested in her plight. The social scene of her location and time, along with the universal themes of being a strong person under the influence of forces beyond their control give the film a gravitas missing from a lot of horror pics. Now; with all of that being said; the scare factor in this film is definitely present and accounted for as well. While a lot of the horror is of the fleeting glimpse of a strange figure and jump scare variety; they are handled with great care by writer/director Babak Anvari, and a special mention must be given to the excellent sound design which adds a depth to the shocks that really helps build that ol’ tension.
The only negative I will mention with this one is the fact that the film is subtitled (as it was filmed entirely in the Farsi language); and I know for some folks that’s a deal breaker; why I have no damn clue, but some folks just hate it.
All in all; UNDER THE SHADOW is a great supernatural shocker; but what makes it a step above is what it brings to the table in terms of social conscious and what it has to say about the oppression of women. High-brow hauntin’ at its finest folks!