DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Under the Shadow

Director - Babak Anvari - 2016

"Filthy genius movie"
The demon is in the missile: terrificaly scary horror from Iran blends the terrors of Iran-Iraq War with evil spirits from Islamic mythology known as Djinn, enveloped by thorny political and social issues - this is our first dirty Halloween treat this year for our readers

The Iran-Iraq War is thought to be the longest conventional war of the 20th century, lasting from 1980 to 1988. Lives were plunged into darkness where fear and anxiety thrived”. These titles open this co-production of Iran, Britain and Jordan set in Tehran (and filmed mostly in Jordan). It sounds like the perfect premise for a documentary, a thriller or a drama feature. Very few people associate war with the horror genre, when in fact the two have a lot in common: angst, despair, claustrophobia, death and uncertainty about the future. Under the Shadow is here to change this and many other pre-conceptions of the horror genre.

Much of mainstream horror relies on sexual misconduct or a twisted interpretation of religious doctrine in order to punish the afflicted, who often feel guilty for something they did. In slasher movies, a sadistic killer normally strikes after young people have engaged in a sexual act or some indecent and reproachable behaviour. Or demons associated with Christian faith will haunt the innocent, often possessing and converting them. Under the Shadow takes a very different route: it punishes its main character for her political activism, and her torturers are spirits associated with Islamic faith. It is a sharp criticism of the post-Revolution, highly conservative political establishment of Iran.

It’s 1988, and Shideh (Narges Rashidi) decides to stay in Tehran with her daughter Dorsa despite the insistence of her husband Iraj. He is a doctor working for the military, and he has been assigned to an area of more intense fighting. Shideh’s flat is suddenly hit by an unexploded missile, which instead brings evil spirits known as Djinn inside it. The entities are often mentioned in Islamic mithology, and a neighbour explains to Shideh: “They travel in the wind. And they will take away one of your possessions, and will not leave until you find it”. Shideh soons realise that the object in question is her daughter’s treasured cloth doll named Kimia, and that some horrifying spectres have attached themselves to her family. She must now find the toy and leave.

Shideh was earlier a political activist against the Revolution, and this prevented her from going to university. She now feels guilty for not holding a degree, as she also feels that she is not a good mother. She is often heavy-handed and tactless with Dorsa, who does not entirely trust her. In addition, she owns forbidden items in her property, including a VCR and music videos of foreign artists. Her demeanour is censurable, and could even land her in jail. To make it worse, one day she flees the evil spirits in despair running down the street without her headscarf, only to be stopped by the vice squad and nearly arrested. She promply returns to her flat to encounter the entities angrier and more revengeful than ever. The writing is on the wall: misbehave, and we will come to get you – if not the police than the evil paranormal forces.

Shideh isn’t safe anywhere: there’s danger inside and outside. Missiles and Djinns can strike at any time, and the darkness of the shelter underneath the building doesn’t feel safe at all. A curfew might be just the perfect opportunity for the spirits to attack the woman and her daughter. What makes Under the Shadow so effective is that the horror is used very sparingly, and instead the narrative relies on a feeling of guilt, anguish and entrapment in order to keep the viewer hooked. The few scary moments are very cleverly devised and guaranteed to make you jump off your seat.

Under the Shadow is showing tonight at the Curzon Bloomsbury. The movie is also available for streaming on Google Play – just click here for more information.

You can also watch the film trailer here:


"Filthy genius movie"

By Victor Fraga - 19-10-2016

By Victor Fraga - 19-10-2016

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 years of inv...

DMovies Poll

Should smoking in cinema be banned?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

The world is blithely unaware of the coup [Read More...]
Back in 2010, Germany striker Mario Gomez urged [Read More...]
Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Perhaps no other 20th century artist has captured [Read More...]
When people die, they are taken to the [Read More...]

Read More

Alive (Sanda)

Park Jung-bum

Jeremy Clarke - 14-11-2018

A harsh life made worse. An austere existence, work problems and difficult family issues combine to make one man’s rural life almost unendurable – from the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF), on now [Read More...]

The Workshop (L’atelier)

Laurent Cantet

Redmond Bacon - 14-11-2018

Angry without a cause? Teacher has to grapple with student's "white anxiety" and latent nationalism, as she attempts to help younger people to integrate into the world of work - French drama in cinemas Friday, November 16th [Read More...]

The Price Of Everything

Nathaniel Kahn

Jeremy Clarke - 14-11-2018

Things money just can buy! Doc about contemporary art market – the artists, the dealers, the buyers – poses questions about the dual natures of both art and capitalism - in cinemas from Friday, November 16th [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *