Under The Shadow review: An old school chiller that offers plenty of scares.
Under The Shadow review, Kat Hughes for The Hollywood News.
Set during the 1980’s in Tehran, Under the Shadow follows mother and daughter, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). After her husband is drafted, Shideh and Dorsa struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn country.
After Dorsa’s beloved doll Kimia goes missing, a battle of wills between mother and daughter begins. Dorsa is certain that a mythical being known as a Djinn has stolen her treasured possession. As Dorsa gets increasingly more stressed and agitated, Shideh realises that there might be something to her daughter’s wild stories…
Under The Shadow is a meticulously crafted ghost story that comes out of nowhere. The first half of the movie or so, you could be forgiven for forgetting you are watching a horror film. The story instead focuses on an eighties Tehran and the life that ordinary folks lived, trying to maintain normality whilst under the constant threat of attack. It also highlights the inequality of the sexes, sadly something which still exists today. For example, Shideh is blamed for trivial matters, like not correctly bolting a garage door – it must be her as she’s the only female driver and a man would never be so careless.
As the tale unfolds the supernatural elements start to slowly ebb into the narrative flow. Director Babak Anvari has clearly looked to the classic ghost story movies of old and has captured their atmosphere beautifully. The scares are simplistic, but effective. Under the Shadow is a film that doesn’t want to give too much away, yet Anvari doesn’t just rely on a spooky environment – this is a film with an interesting study of motherhood, much like The Babadook.
The acting is top notch, especially from youngster Manshadi. Dorsa is a very emotional child and Manshadi manages to keep the performance grounded and believable. Rashidi is exceptional as Shideh, a character painted as a victim, she does an incredible job of showing her hidden strength.
An old school chiller, Under The Shadow offers more than just the usual scares. An interesting and welcome entry into the foreign language ghost story.
Under The Shadow review by Kat Hughes, London, September 2016.
Under The Shadow is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30th September, 2016.