Amidst the suspense and merited jump scares, there is a film that delves into the horror of a society that is unforgiving to a mother and daughter trying to survive a variety of evils, both real and imaginary.
Under the Shadow is an Iranian film helmed by debutant Babak Anvari. Let me start out the review by saying what you are probably thinking – I’ve never seen an Iranian film before either. Even if you aren’t a fan of subtitled films, don’t let that stop you from watching this highly gripping and taut psychological horror.
The movie, set in Tehran 1988, sees a mother (Narges Rashidi) struggling for her right to study after her involvement in the Iranian cultural revolution. This leads to friction with her husband, who is shown to be supportive but realistic in an otherwise oppressive society. When he is sent off to serve his country in the war, she is left to fend for herself and her daughter in a harsh world where uncertainty awaits them.
‘The magic here doesn’t lie in its CGI mastery but rather in its enthralling story and thought provoking subtext’
With no exaggerated music building up to an obvious jump scare or cliché horror tactics weighing the film down, this original piece of work manages to immerse you in a world that, even without the supernatural elements of djinns (supernatural beings from Islamic mythology), leaves you shaken.
Compelling performances by both Rashidi and the young Manshadi make proceedings far more believable and interesting than in more expensive Hollywood counterparts. The magic here doesn’t lie in its CGI mastery but rather in its enthralling story and thought provoking subtext.
I am not a horror film fan by any means. I find them far too repetitive and uncreative to be truly effective. However, Under the Shadow works on a variety of levels. It is a rich psychological thriller; a chilling drama showcasing the struggles of a woman in a patriarchal society.
An all-rounded and exceptional film, this one is a Halloween must see if you are in search of some horror with depth.
More like this: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)