Thursday, 13 October 2016

UNDER THE SHADOW - TORONTO AFTER DARK 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Horror film against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s will knock you on your ass!

Under the Shadow (2016)
Dir. Babak Anvari
Starring: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Living in Tehran during the eight long years of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s was terrifying enough with endless bombs dropping. Eventually, with the threat of missiles from Iraq, the city emptied to ghost town proportions. Against this backdrop is one of the most creepy, harrowing and heart-stoppingly scary movies of the year.

Shideh (played by the intense and babe-o-licious Narges Rashidi) lives the life of a housewife and Mom to hubby Iraj (Bobby Nederi) and daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) respectively.

After unceremoniously being booted from medical school for her "political" leanings, she's disappointed to learn that after years of repentance, she will still be barred from completing her studies. Iraj is sympathetic, but he is a practising doctor himself and tries to placate her with taking solace in the good life they have together.

She's having none of it. Even in the repressive world they live in, she yearns for independence and self-fulfilment - perhaps, even, to a fault. When Iraj is drafted into military service, she refuses to leave Tehran with Dorsa and into the relatively safe harbour of her in-laws. As bombs and missiles strike the city with more frequency, Shideh gets frantic telephone calls from Iraj, begging her to leave.

Infused with the similar kind of Dustin Hoffman from Straw Dogs ethic of "This is our home", Shideh digs her heels in.

However, other than a war waging, there's another problem which creepily, insidiously begins to plague the family's home. Is it a ghost? A demon? A Djinn?

If it's an evil Djinn, this is definitely not a good thing.

Shideh is, however, a woman of reason, of logic, of intellect. She refuses to believe in old Arabic superstitions. But soon, the horror visiting upon her is far too real to ignore.

Under the Shadow is a slow burn. What begins as a domestic drama during wartime starts to unravel itself into a full blown horror film. You'll never see the first jump-scare coming, but when it does, you will be gasping for breath and clutching your chest. And it's no cheap jump scare. It's earned and rooted deeply in the psychological, cultural and sociological fabric of both the narrative and world of the film.

Writer-Director Babak Anveri displays such control over the proceedings that the visceral moments have the kind of impact we seldom see in contemporary horror films. The film is dazzling and original and one of the few movies that flirts with being genuinely in the same league as The Exorcist.


Under The Shadow is an official selection at the 2016 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.